Words & Photos by Alan Snodgrass
After a successful inaugural run in 2015, It’s Not Dead Fest returned to San Bernardino’s Glen Helen Amphitheater for a long day crammed with some of the best music punk rock has to offer. This year’s lineup was built around Rancid and Dropkick Murphys’ co-headlining “From Boston to Berkeley Tour” and featured 40 bands across four stages.
Taking a page from his Warped Tour handbook, founder Kevin Lyman didn’t announce set times until after doors had opened so folks that wanted to be sure to catch their favorite band were lined up and ready to go so that there were already decent crowds on hand as the first three stages kicked off within 20 minutes of each other with Spider, Channel 3 and Wraths (featuring Jim Lindberg of Pennywise fame on vocals) all delivering inspired sets.
Apparently the steady stream of festival goers made an early trip to the merch tent because by the time the Interrupters (notably the only band of the day that played the first It’s Not Dead Fest) took the stage at 1:25, the sloping lawn was filled with people trying to escape the blazing sun under $20 Vans beach umbrellas. A genius move by Vans but one that didn’t stop the folks up front from dancing along and kicking up some dust for The Interrupters infectious tunes.
The rotating main stage meant no time spent on set changes … as soon as one band finished, the next band (most appearing to enjoy the ride) spun into sight and launched right in. No rest for the fans who were more than happy to keep the pits moving as the mercury on the thermometer passed 100 degrees and kept on going. Main stage bands Good Riddance, G.B.H. (vocalist Colin. taking a go at the set wearing a zipped up leather jacket) and OFF! were particularly punished by the beating sun but all managed to deliver what were probably three of the best sets of day.
For those needing more than a beach umbrella to escape the sun, the giant circus tent at the back of the lawn served as an excellent respite. It was easy to lose time in there looking at some of the rad photos and artwork by the likes of Lisa Johnson, Chris Shary and Jennifer Finch (L7), all of whom were on-hand to chat. On top of that, there were readings and general shit-shooting by authors including Keith Morris (OFF!, Black Flag, Circle Jerks) and Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.) who hung out under the big top all day.
With so much going on, an attendees’ primary regret that didn’t involve alcohol consumption or a porta potty is likely that they couldn’t see it all. With four stages including that spinning main that never went silent, there are always going to be those heartbreaking conflicts. Kevin Seconds vs. Good Riddance, Down By Law vs. GBH and The Casualties vs. The Adicts were all wrenching decisions. But make no mistake, there were deservedly huge crowds for those side stage bands, most notably The Casualties (with new singer David Rodriguez from Starving Wolves and Krum Bums) and Voodoo Glow Skulls (with Efrem Shultz of Manic Hispanic and Death by Stereo on vocals) both absolutely killing it with the SoCal crowd.
The side stages were all shut down by 8pm, giving everyone a chance to make their way over to catch Dropkick Murphys on the main stage where streamers from The Adicts set still fluttered from the rigging. If you’d already seen the “From Boston to Berkeley Tour” you knew what to expect … and hour of DKM, an hour of Rancid (which included a touching tribute to Gabby Gaborno of Cadillac Tramps and Manic Hispanic who passed earlier this year) and an encore of cover tunes by both bands. Whether you’d seen it or not, you got a damned good time as both bands, seasoned by a few months of touring, were both at the top of their game.
After the epic lineup of the first It’s Not Dead Fest, it was hard to imagine anyone being able to pull off another yet two years later the INDF team did just that. No, punks not dead… likely recovering from heat stroke and sunburn… but definitely not dead.