September 29th, 2016

Punk rock in the desert — Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival draws loyal crowds to Vegas

By Lethbridge Herald on June 12, 2015.

Finnie McConnell, left, and Katie McConnell of The Mahones perform May 25 during the last day of the 17th annual Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival in Las Vegas.Finnie McConnell, left, and Katie McConnell of The Mahones perform May 25 during the last day of the 17th annual Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival in Las Vegas.

Garrett Simmons
Lethbridge Herald — LAS VEGAS
It’s an event like few others in music.
   For the past 17 Memorial Day long weekends south of the border, people from across North America and beyond have gathered in Las Vegas for the Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival. Just off Fremont Street, at the corner of 7th and Stewart, a massive parking lot is transformed for three days to showcase the biggest bands in the punk genre.
Each day, nine bands take to the stage, as performances this year included such stalwarts as Rancid and Dropkick Murphys, and the return of Swedish band Refused, responsible for one of the most iconic punk albums of all time, 1998’s “The Shape of Punk to Come.”
The main festival stage, which includes shows from Saturday to Monday, is supplemented by club shows which run in various Fremont-area bars from Friday to Monday, which, in addition to the Punk Rock Bowling Tournament and Punk Rock Poker Tournament, round out the event.
Art exhibits, film screenings and pool parties are also part of the festivities, which every year brings together those with a love for music which strays from the mainstream.
All together, 99 bands performed throughout four days, both outside in the sweltering Vegas heat and indoors at clubs like Bunk House, the Country Saloon, the Freemont Country Club and the Backstage Bar.
The sheer number of bands on display means there’s always something for everyone, though festival goers must pick and choose which shows to hit, and how many hours of music they can explore in a four-day segment. Main-stage shows start late afternoon each day, while club shows typically run well into the early morning.
But make no mistake, there is simply no other event which encapsulates everything that is punk rock, all in one weekend. Those looking to learn about the history involved in the formation of the scene could take in a free photo exhibit, which documented punk’s early days and its evolution from 1962-2002, or take in a screening of “Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, D.C. (1980-1990).”
Strictly from a music perspective, however, the main stage on the festival grounds represents a veritable who’s who in punk, as 2015 marked impressive main-stage acts, highlighted by Rancid’s performance of its famous album, “Out Come the Wolves,” released 20 years ago. Dropkick Murphys turned in a typically solid performance on the Monday night to wrap things up, with the performance of its classic album, “Do Or Die.”
A mix of up-and-coming acts like Seattle’s Success!, New Orleans band PEARS and the Texas outfit Avenue Rockers, and veterans like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Sick of It All, Murder City Devils, Swingin’ Utters, Agnostic Front and Conflict, there’s simply never a dull moment. Acts seemlessly shifted from sub-genres like pop punk, ska and Celtic punk, all the way to hardcore offerings, as every day featured a wide range of bands.
This year also marked a rarity — a North American performance by Norway’s Turbonegro, which brought with it a flood of Turbojugend fan-club members, who descended on Vegas from all over the world, which included a four-member contingent from Lethbridge’s Deathbridge chapter. It ended up being the second-largest gathering ever for the fan club, as Turbojugend members flooded the festival, and the Fremont Street Experience, with denim jackets to represent their various chapters.
But whether you’re there to see one band in particular, only interested in the headliners each night or want to hear a few bands for the first time, the festival is the place to be. With a $120 price tag for all three days, or $50 for a day pass, it’s an affordable experience. Be warned, however, the club shows, held in the evenings after performances on the main stage wrap up, sell out very quickly, especially with big-name bands like 2015’s entries, which included Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, 7 Seconds and Strung Out, just as few examples.

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