Punk Rock Bowling is coming up quick (tickets available here) – on May 26–29 in Vegas, June 2–3 in Denver, and June 9–11 in Asbury Park – and punks everywhere are sweating with anticipation. You’ve already got your plane tickets, your spare underpants, and your illicit substances packed, but to help you really prepare, here are the eight acts you cannot miss at this year’s festival!
Now is the time to see Iggy Pop. Much like a grandfather sitting the youngest grandkid on his knee for a serious talk, Iggy Pop has intimated that he will not be here forever—despite our subconscious beliefs otherwise. During the 2016 Grey’s Music Seminar, he obliquely remarked, “The less I can do, the better off I am.” More directly, he said to Beats 1 that same year while supporting his Post Pop Depression album, “I feel like I’m closin’ up after this. To really make an album, you really have to put everything into it. The energy’s more limited now.”
Despite his claim of limited energy, Iggy 2017 doesn’t show any signs of his 70 years. Post Pop Depression capped an important period in Pop’s career. In The Stooges, Iggy—along with the Asheton brothers—hailed and destroyed rock at the same time in a combination of heavy, lashing riffs, tribal drums, and of course, Iggy’s bluesman-on-speed howl. Over three albums, 1969’s The Stooges, 1970’s Fun House, and 1973’s Raw Power, The Stooges created the best rock ever—just ask Jello Biafra, Buzz Osborne, or Jack White.
But after a period of low-selling releases, waaay too many drugs, and incidents involving peanut butter, The Stooges collapsed. Then, just when all seemed lost, Iggy reconnected with some guy called David Bowie and came out swinging with rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest second act—the double whammy of The Idiot and Lust for Life in 1977, wherein Iggy merged his primal rage with Bowie’s Berlin Art Deco sound.
Yet again, Iggy’s high was followed by a string of albums of varying quality until he seemed to fade into the background—until the cycle repeated. In 2007, Iggy reunited with The Stooges. As he jumped around onstage—shirtless, howling like a mad dog—it became clear what was missing during the fallow ‘80s and ‘90s. Iggy and the boys were demonstrating once again why they were the titans of rock, the fathers of punk, and living legends.
As is the theme of Iggy’s life, tragedy struck again when both Asheton brothers passed away unexpectedly over a relatively short span. As could be heard in interviews with Detroit radio stations shortly after Ron Asheton’s passing, a sobbing Iggy seemed broken. So, it was somewhat of a surprise when he linked up with members of Arctic Moneys and Queens Of The Stone Age and released Post Pop Depression in 2016, an album that fittingly recalled his rebuilding period with Bowie.
Now, for the first time in a long time, Iggy seems free. The Stooges are no more. He’s riding off the success of a well-received album. He’s got nothing to prove and nothing to do but be Iggy. Recent setlists show that now, Iggy—much like Bowie on his final 2004 tour—is interested in delivering a set that defines him and does his legacy justice: there are songs from Fun House, Lust for Life, and even “Repo Man,” not to mention The Stooges’ ultra-rarity, “I’m Sick of You.”
Iggy is still the berserk, intelligent maniac who has been setting the standard for almost 50 years—but who knows when that timer will run out? The Ashetons and Bowie are certainly on our minds. Iggy has had many, many ups and downs, but how many rotations can possibly be left in this unprecedented cycle? Iggy may be waving goodbye, even if neither he nor we know it. DO. NOT. MISS. THIS.
Let’s cut to the chase: when Charles Bradley was announced as a featured act for Punk Rock Bowling, punks across North America went, “Whaaa—?”
That’s OK. For every long-running punk titan at PRB—Iggy, NOFX, Dwarves—there must be occasion to venture outside of one’s comfort zone, an opportunity for adventure and education. Charles Bradley is that opportunity.
You see, Bradley is soul music incarnate. After seeing James Brown in the ‘60s, Bradley formed a band and effortlessly impressed the audience with his ability to master the creaking, wounded crooning heard by rarified legends like Brown, Eddie Floyd, and Sam Cooke. Yet, it was not to be. After a mere six or seven shows, his bandmates were drafted into the Vietnam War, and for the next 30 years, Bradley worked menial jobs, performing to small audiences in tiny clubs. He has been homeless. He has been estranged from his mother. He has been stranded on the highway in the rain. The man knows loss. The man knows desperation. The man knows pain. Maybe you recognize those elements from a certain other genre you are more familiar with…
But after a chance encounter with Gabriel Roth of neo-soul record label, Daptone, Bradley was introduced to the Menahan Street Band. The singer and band clicked, with Bradley improvising lyrics over their swaying, weighty rhythms.
This collaboration culminated with 2016’s Changes, on which Bradley covers the famed Black Sabbath ballad of the same name. The pairing is inspired. Bradley calls out in a damaged moan while Menahan Street Band warp the song from a ‘70s rock ballad to a throwback soul number that could fit on Sam Cooke at the Copa. More than anything else, the cover shows that the core elements of all music—soul, rock, metal, punk—spring from the same well of human essence. When you see Bradley live, wedged between hardcore moshers, pop punkers, and Two-tone skankers, you will see this and you will be moved. Don’t cheat yourself out of this lesson.
“We are feeling very determined right now,” Mobina Galore drummer Marcia Hanson says. Along with guitarist Jenna Priestner, the duo have been tearing it up across the globe. They’re currently supporting their second LP, Feeling Disconnected—released Feb. 24 via Cooking Vinyl—and it’s clear that they are psyched.
Right now, the pair are in a cramped, smelly van, blasting across Germany at unsafe speeds, through rolls of angry, dangerous drivers, and they are having the time of their lives. “The beer here is the best,” Hanson says. “So, the hardest thing about life these days is not getting drunk every night. I got 10 hours of sleep last night, and I have had some coffee, so I am feeling optimistic.”
It’s no wonder the duo are on a high. Feeling Disconnected is exactly what a second full-length should be—previous releases hinted at the band’s capabilities, but their second platter finds them not only congealing, but getting a little harder, a little edgier, and a little wilder. On the record, Priestner shreds her guitar in a combination of Johnny Ramone buzzsaw feedback and Courtney Love-style chopping. Hanson hurtles the whole thing forward with her downright beastly drumming. The women are locking together like few duos can, with the same vision, and are nailing the sweet spot between punk and hard rock. Think a mix of Descendents, Distillers, and Against Me!
The result has been both their best received album to date, as well as a supporting slot for Against Me! and offers to tour internationally.
Hanson continues, “We’ve been touring pretty consistently for the past couple years and have struggled with the feeling of always missing something. When you’re on the road, you’re tired and you miss your friends and family and the comforts of home—but when you’re home, you’re restless and bored and feeling like you should be on the road. Like I said, I’m feeling optimistic. Tomorrow, this may change, but this is the life we chose.”
The members of FIDLAR have lived on the edge. Before getting clean in 2015, vocalist Zac Carper was a heavy-duty user, hooked on heroin, methamphetamines, you name it. In one unfortunate month, he overdosed no less than three separate times.
In part, this behavior was accelerated by the band’s hard rocking, hard partying reputation. Their 2013 self-titled LP featured the perfect combination of skate punk, garage rock, and good vibes that came together to make the ultimate party soundtrack. You know that scene in movies when everyone has a solo cup and their hands waving above their heads and they are just going wild? That’s what FIDLAR sound like.
But, like all parties, the FIDLAR rampage had to come to an end. The band went on hiatus as Carper checked into rehab for the umpteenth time. Then, even after he was discharged, he was still planning to go right back to the dealer—until he got a surprise call from none other than Billie Joe Armstrong. After Armstrong convinced Carper to give the going-clean thing a try, the band resumed recording their second and latest LP, Too.
Anchored by the monster single “40oz. on Repeat”—which deals with the fallout of getting clean—the album paradoxically partied hardier than its predecessor, but also featured much darker themes. Hell, the refrain of “40oz.” is “Because everybody’s got somebody, everybody but me / Why can’t anybody just tell me that I’m somebody’s?” There’s something to be said for a band who trudged through mile after mile of shit toward the light, and who then, after finding out that the light was an optical illusion, still decided to party it up.
No one saw the Choking Victim reunion coming. By now, the legend is well trod: after building one hell of a buzz in the mid-’90s, Choking Victim bafflingly got a deal with big-indie, Hellcat Records, and just as it seemed like they were going to go from big to huge, from underground to theater rockers, they—broke up on the first day of recording the new album. The cause of the sudden split was never made clear, but it was evident that there was a lot of bad blood.
While members of the band reformed as Leftöver Crack, there was always a mystique around Choking Victim’s sole LP, the irreverently titled No Gods / No Managers. A combination of punk, ska, metal, Satanism, anarcho tracts, and ghoulish humor, the record was built from a thousand pieces, but was unquestionably greater than its parts. Choking Victim sang praises to the Horned One to a Jamaican beat. They unabashedly ripped off Slayer riffs. They had a song inexplicably called “Suicide (A Better Way).”
Like all masterpieces, it shouldn’t have worked at all, but it resulted in a truly unique combination of forms that saluted those influences and mocked them at the same time. Needless to say, the legend grew due to the fact that, by the time most people knew about Choking Victim, Choking Victim had broken up.
The band reunited in their original lineup a few times in the 2000s, with Scott “Stza” Sturgeon on vocals, Sascha “Scatter” DuBrul on bass, and John Dolan on drums. After that lineup petered to a halt in 2006, it seemed Choking Victim were done. So, it was one hell of a surprise when, seemingly out of nowhere, the band’s three most prominent members—Stza, bassist Alec Baillie, and drummer Skwert—suddenly decided to reunite, despite the animosity between Stza and Skwert.
Since then, the band have done about two handfuls of shows. To everyone’s surprise, it seems they have dissolved the rancor and returned to doing what they do best: cagey, sharp, sardonic ska punk about drugs, Baphomet, and Noam Chomsky. This unholy trinity will not last. You know what to do.
“I think my parents and my brother are the most wonderful people that I know,” Dwarves frontman Blag Dahlia says. That’s right, the guy who is infamous for putting naked women covered in blood on his album covers, the guy who has been in brawl after brawl onstage, the guy who has snorted and puffed and tabbed his way across the United States—loves his mommy and daddy. In fact, he has just gotten back from spending some nice quiet time with his folks.
“My parents did go through a lot with me,” he continues. “So, I owe them for that. I was always a hyperactive kid. I just wouldn’t shut up in class. I was always fighting with people. That’s what drew me to punk rock. It never really appealed to me musically, but the physical feeling that I get from it is what drew me in.”
So, what does it mean that the guy who is routinely taken to task for his explicit imagery and violent lyrics has a loving, caring family life? Dahlia explains, “Most bands have this standard default setting of ‘sincerity.’ Even though they’re shitty people in real life, they proclaim their ‘sincerity’ about their religion or lack of religion, about their social beliefs or lack thereof, about their love of the working class or love of the leisure class—and then, you see someone like Bruce Springsteen, the working class hero, who has been riding around in a limousine for 50 years.”
“But the Dwarves come from the province of The Stooges or KISS,” he continues, “There is a core of sincerity, but there is a great deal of theater. You actually have to use your brain and choose to find it.”
To that end, the band have just finished recording their new album, due out in early 2018. As with their previous compact classic, 2014’s The Dwarves Invented Rock & Roll, the album is—as Dahlia describes it—a Dwarves “posse record” featuring members from across the band’s three-decade run flipping from hardcore to pop punk to garage rock. As with their previous statements, it finds the band dwelling on sex, violence, and revenge. “People think about these things all the time, but so few bands actually talk about it in an honest matter,” Dahlia says. “We do. When I say the Dwarves are the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band ever, I mean it—but I like The Beatles too, if you follow me…”
“We try not to get into politics too much as a band,” Venomous Pinks guitarist Drea Doll says, “but with the whole Donald Trump thing—it really pisses us off that someone like that can become president. How can someone like that pass laws on what happens with our bodies?”
The band have just released their new EP, We Do It Better, and it’s really, really good. The four women in the band—Doll; guitarist, bassist, and vocalist Gaby Kaos; guitarist Corrie Zazzera; and drummer Jewlz—are locking together like never before and have kicked out a handful of songs that kick like Joan Jett, rock like AC/DC, and charge like the Ramones. They’ll be the first to tell you that their music is par-tay music. There’s no phony Crass-aping or drawn-out anarchist bookstore over-intellectualizing. This is good-time music.
So, what do you do when you want to make fun jams but the world is being directed by an orange manbaby? “Anyone can just say, ‘Fuck you, Donald Trump,’” Doll says. “That’s obvious. But it is important to have fun. Especially now. We want to show through example, not through something that’s put-on.”
The new EP’s title track makes this point clear. Borrowing a line from “Annie Get Your Gun,” the song opens with: “Anything you can do, I can do better!” The implication is clear. “Look, we’re girls, we’re in a band,” Doll says. “We do hope that people don’t look at us just from a gender standpoint. But we can rock too, you know? It all goes back to the same thing. You don’t have to do any one thing. It’s important to keep punk rock fun, but it’s also important to keep that ‘fuck you’ attitude.”
Crazy And The Brains
“Some days, you look in the mirror and say, ‘Damn, I am busted as fuck,’” says Crazy And The Brains vocalist Chris Urban says. “And then, some days, you look in the mirror and say, ‘Daaamn, I’m looking goood.’”
The New Jersey-based band are working on their new album, and if Urban’s words are any indication, the release will follow the theme established on their very first demo. “Box Room”—from one of their earlier releases—was about freaking out from the pressures of the modern world, but not really caring about it. Their latest single included “Good Boy,” which was about being a little “off” and, well, being cool with that.
“We’re about embracing yourself and your flaws,” Urban says. “Everyone is presenting themselves in a fake, plastic, airbrushed kind of way. A lot of people say a lot of things to present themselves as perfect, but there’s nothing behind it. I’m not down with that. I say fuck that. I like people that are raw with their emotion.”
No doubt, the band have embraced being different. A five-piece, the band combine the bluesy licks of Johnny Thunders with the revved-up melody of the Bay City Rollers and some straight-up manic, twisted energy. Plus, one of the band’s main components is Jeffrey Rubin on xylophone. You don’t see that in many punk bands.
Onstage, they’re more of a gang than a band, with Urban thrashing with crazed eyes, Rubin hitting the xylophone so hard that his mallets snap, Brett Miller pulling out racing basslines, and new-ish guitarist Ernest Young adding that L.A.M.F. style riffage.
“I think, mentally, I’ll always be a little off,” Urban continues. “If you are completely sane and happy, maybe that’s not such a great space to be. Emotion is what moves me, and we try to convey that in our songs without holding anything back. We want to be truly honest, including our flaws. We’re an unfiltered band. We’ve always been unfiltered. And if there comes a time when we aren’t unfiltered anymore, don’t listen to us anymore, because that means we suck.”
Ari Katz is like Jesus. He’s Jewish, and he’s a carpenter. He believes in the power of community. He thinks being nice is a good idea.
And like Jesus, he’s doesn’t particularly feel tied to the religion of his parents. But whereas Big J looked to his Heavenly Father for answers, Katz sought answers from a different source: hardcore frikkin’ punk. “I started going to CBGBs around 1988,” Katz says. “Youth Of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Breakdown, Absolution—I was into it all. People were there because they loved it. Most of the kids were just like you—latchkey kids, skaters. Everybody sort of wanted the same thing, and it was found in these underground spaces.”
But as the ‘80s proceeded into the ‘90s, the second wave hardcore bands began to peter out. Katz says, “By the time Lifetime started, we wanted to carry the baton. We definitely had an idea of what we wanted to do. There were bands ahead of us that inspired us to just do what we wanted to do.”
And that’s where Lifetime, in their very formation, made their power-play. By 1990, many punk bands had picked a route and stuck firmly to it—either they were strictly hardcore screamers or they were college-rock strummers. Lifetime chose the middle path. Pairing the sharp punch of bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag with the earnest, reflective thoughtfulness of bands like Hüsker Dü and Rites Of Spring, Lifetime championed both the power and passion of punk—something few bands had done before.
“I got the same thing out of all our inspirations and tried to put it into our music,” Katz says. “Energy, emotion, confusion—all these things that you can’t really put your finger on. I don’t have a dogmatic view of music. I love all music, and I love all of the same things about music.”
“I can’t complain about anything,” he continues. “I have an awesome wife. I play music with her. I have three kids. I live in Asbury Park. I get to play music and just do whatever I want—I mean, I’m blessed.”
Giuda are not ashamed of their influences—and they shouldn’t be, because their influences kick ass. The Roman five-piece effortless pull from glam and bubblegum rock, calling back to the ‘70s two-minute-thirty hitmakers. The band’s recipe includes a lot of T-Rex, a lot of Slade, a lot of Bay City Rollers, and maybe a smidge of Thin Lizzy.
But instead of trying to mask their roots behind modern production or highfalutin concepts, the band put the sheer force of 1975 up front and center. Their track “Kukulcan” sounds like Phil Lynott jamming with Gary Glitter. “Yellow Dash,” with its stream of consciousness lyrics, could be dropped onto T-Rex’s The Slider, and no one would be the wiser.
That’s why Giuda’s gambit is so successful. Instead of trying to bury the formula discovered by Marc Bolan and The Rollers, the band genuinely, unironically appreciate the full force of pop-based thunderous hooks. Listen, if it’s good enough for Bolan and Bowie, it’s damn sure good enough for us—and it is very, very good.
You can grab our MFGG / Punk Rock Bowling, including exclusive flexi, cover by clicking the image below!