Punk Rock Bowling is back! After numerous date changes and a constant shuffling of the lineup, Punk Rock Bowling made its return to Las Vegas, and it was a glorious four days of day drinking, great music, late nights, catching up with old friends, and making new friends. The sore feet, empty wallets, and occasional hangover was all worth the wait.
Kudos to the festival organizers for rolling with the punches. Imagine trying to put on an event of this scale in the midst of ever-changing regulations and travel restrictions and still coming up with the resulting epic lineup. First NOFX got bumped for Descendents (some may call that an upgrade) and aside from Frank Turner, who somehow managed to slip across the border, the lineup was purely from the U.S. Various other reasons resulted in several other bands dropping but with replacements like The Dwarves, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, and The Darts, it was pretty hard to complain.
Pandemic be damned, nothing was going to stop PRB. Between the festival, pool parties, lounge shows, and club shows, there was once again more than could be physically be handled and FOMO was a constant factor. And as usual, the best-laid plans usually are out the window within hours of touching down, and that’s OK because some of the best moments are always unexpected, such as Blag Dahlia from the Dwarves’ epic, three-hour lounge set at the Downtown Grand with Mark Mothersbaugh and Josh Freese from DEVO in the front row while some random dude played along on harmonica from somewhere in the room. Or realizing the DJ blasting tunes in the back of the Fremont Country club during the Suicide Machines show was none other than DJ Lethal from House of Pain and Limp Bizkit … where else would that happen?!?!
It seems that the owners of the festival site bought a street (did anyone else not know that was a thing?) which allowed for a larger side stage, and boy did the Sterns back that stage with some great bands: The Bronx, Plague Vendor, Municipal Waste, Pears, Riverboat Gamblers, The Dwarves were some of the sets you were either stoked you saw or should be bummed you missed.
All that said, the big news for 2021 was the return of the Circle Jerks, and their Saturday headlining set. After playing Riot Fest a week earlier, hopes were high, and while it was fantastic to hear those tunes live, the energy level was not where one would have expected which was a bit surprising after the rambunctious reaction from the crowd to Streetlight Manifesto’s set (even though they called the crowd “Los Angeles” oops). It may be best to catch the Jerks on their headlining tour at a smaller venue to get the true CJ experience.
As always, Punk Rock Bowling is about the experience, but with such a packed weekend of great music, it’s always worth mentioning a few of the highlights (your results may vary):
- Bad Cop/Bad Cop: A late add on the side stage of the festival, Bad Cop/Bad Cop got the warmest welcome from the crowd of the weekend (even the band looked surprised). And as one of the many bands that had a new release ill-timed with the pandemic, it was awesome to hear the near tunes live.
- Urethane: Steve Caballero’s new band was excellent, even though the singer didn’t remember the name of their new album which was on the screen behind him (in case you were wondering, it’s “Chasing Horizons” not “Chasing Rainbows”). Unpopular opinion alert: these guys are better than The Faction. Don’t be mad, just go buy the record and agree.
- ALL: Holy crap, these guys sounded great. Chad Price’s vocals were on point, and the rest of the band looked like they were having a great time after their Friday night Descendents headlining set. They also had a huge crowd given their early set.
- Field Day: Ex-Dag Nasty members (aka “Dad Nasty”) tore through material off of the “Wig Out at Denko’s” and “Field Day” albums with surprisingly great aplomb. And if you missed them on the festival side stage, hopefully you caught them at their epic sing-along at the Downtown Grand pool party.
- DEVO: Remember when y’all got mad when DEVO headlined Punk Rock Bowling in 2013 and then they proceeded to absolutely kick your ass? They brought out the production, costume changes, and a setlist with every single song you wanted to hear and did it again. Just admit it, you love DEVO.
The PRB crowds are always great and if there was a fight or even a kerfuffle, it was hardly noticeable. People are just there for good time, and that’s what keeps them coming back year after year. Kudos to the Sterns and the whole Punk Rock Bowling crew for pulling it off yet again. Here’s to doing it again next year!
PRB Day #1
PRB Day #2
PRB Day #3
PRB Day #4