On day two of Punk Rock Bowling 2016, the Vegas scene was well represented by not one but two bands, starting with the Negative Nancys. They had the unenviable task of playing first when many would-be fans were at the pools or just passed out, but they had the few in attendance cheering by set’s end.
Of course I had to be there for locals Be Like Max, as they’re one of my favorite bands. With bald heads freshly shaven the day before, the boys of BLM were met with a surprisingly good turnout: there were a good number of people clad in Be Like Max shirts and baseball caps (including me). There was a skank pit for practically every song, and a classic circle pit when they played “Yours Truly.” Their reception wasn’t just warm, it was scorching as they became the earliest band to have people shouting for “one more song.”
Night Birds is one part surf, another hardcore and somehow, they just make it work. Like BLM, the band had a lot of energy, but since it was a bit early the crowd wasn’t too crazy. My friend commented, “It sucks that so many people only come for the big headlining bands. These lesser-known ones are just as good, so their crowds should be just as big.” But Night Birds had enough energy to supplement the crowd, with tight instrumentals and a frontman that’s the definition of wild.
I’d listened to a couple of The Sainte Catherines’ songs as a PRB primer, but couldn’t really get into them. I thought they were a little too hardcore for me, but as soon as their set began they proved me dead wrong. They’re fantastic live, the kind of band whose recordings just don’t do them justice. At first I confused their Québécois accents for French ones (hey, I only took a year of French in high school), but no matter the country of origin, they’re a band whose records I’ll definitely be playing more. Unfortunately, they said that PRB would be their last time in America, so I hope they change their minds.
The crowd for the Dwarves got way bigger within 5 minutes of them starting their set, and for good reason: they would be playing Blood, Guts, and Pussy in its entirety. I’m sure guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed coming out in his signature BDSM-esque getup of wrestling mask, wrist cuffs, and man-thong brought some intrigued spectators as well. The audience was noticeably more grey-haired, but there was a kid in the pit, too. One of my favorite parts of PRB is seeing little kids and people who were my age when these bands formed all dancing together. The Dwarves’ energetic, feel-good music provided the perfect moshing soundtrack. Never ones to shy away from controversy, they played “Forget Me Not,” a new song about high school shooters, and were helped out by some guest singers on various tracks, including Sturgeon from Leftöver Crack and Stacey Dee from Bad Cop / Bad Cop.
Although I’m not super familiar with Dillinger Four (who introduced themselves as locals Civic Minded Five), I was really looking forward to their set because I’d heard so many good things about them (including this site’s own “Can’t Miss” bands list). These self-professed “four fat guys from the Midwest” didn’t disappoint – playing a brand of gruff, midwestern pop punk that had me dancing along to every song. There was a pocket of fans, mostly bearded, singing their hearts out to songs like “Gainesville,” “Noble Stabbings” and “Doublewhiskeycokenoice,” though I couldn’t help wondering how so many other people could just stand expressionless when D4 was playing. Their jokes about not knowing where they were, and wondering why they agreed to play a swap meet in a parking lot did get the whole crowd smiling, though. The saying “less is more” proved inaccurate, at least when it comes to the band’s three vocalists (four if you count OWTH’s Ryan Young singing “Walk Away” on set-ender “D4 = Putting The ‘F’ Back In ‘Art'”), who took turns on lead, giving their songs a nice variety.
Millencolin provided a nice change of pace, being more traditionally pop punk than many on the bill. I noticed a lot more people singing along than during previous sets, which was kind of surprising since I hadn’t realized how popular they were. I know this is oddly specific, but their music would be the perfect soundtrack for a 90s/2000s coming of age movie. At one point during the set, sometime between “Fox,” “Bullion” and “No Cigar,” I saw at least three separate pits going. They also played a lot of songs off of their latest album, True Brew. Those Swedish accents are so damn endearing. Even more endearing was when they dedicated a song and circle pit to the Descendents, claiming that they called a circle pit a “ring dance” in Sweden, and it was done for people you love.
The Buzzcocks brought good, classic British punk to the festival with songs like “Sick City Sometimes,” and brought even more people into the crowd. The bleachers and blacktop filled up with people wanting to hear the music but needing a break from standing (or perhaps saving their energy for the Descendents). Despite half of the crowd sitting down, the Buzzcocks were met with raucous cheering at the end of each song, especially for “Ever Fallen in Love” and “What Do I Get.” The band’s confident stage presence and tight playing made it obvious why these guys are legends.
People sporting Descendents t-shirts and Milo caricature-inspired tattoos were crowding to the front as soon as the Buzzcocks ended, anxiously awaiting the beginning of the Descendents’ set. There were so many people packed into the side of the stage that I wondered how it didn’t break. A few of the band members came out at first, but no Milo, prompting a couple of guys near me to chant, “We want the nerd! We want the nerd!”
I couldn’t blame them, because when Milo came out in all his geeky glory, he even had that dorky back strap on his glasses. As soon as the Descendents started playing “Everything Sucks,” the crowd went nuts. It took me a good minute just to get out of the pit. Impressively, his voice sounded just as young as on their first record, Milo Goes to College. 34 years later, they’re planning on releasing a new record, called Hypercaffium Spazzinate, (man, those dudes hate decaf) and we were treated to new songs “Victim of Me,” “Feel This,” “Testosterone,” and “Shameless Halo.”
That same hatred of decaf came back in the form of one of the band’s “All-o-Gistics” which they had two young kids read aloud. Not gonna lie, it was pretty amusing to see a bunch of dad-aged guys play “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” They ended their set 10 minutes early, but I was honestly a little relieved since my feet hurt from standing all day. My relief was short-lived, but the sore feet were worth a four-song encore, and I can’t imagine anyone denying that it was a pretty perfect ending to the day.
Next: Face to Face and Strung Out play full albums, Sic Waitng and Rayner eat tacos.
Photos by Anthony Constantine | https://www.facebook.com/anthonycphotography