I'm not sure who thought combining bowling, punk rock, and cripling desert heat would be an excellent idea, but it seems to be a hit every year. Punk Rock Bowling happens every Memorial weekend in the city of Las Vegas, NV. It involves (and definitely never limited to) a trip to sin city, an optional bowling tournament, admission to the festival shows as well as the shows in the smaller venues and dive bars on Fremont St. with all sorts of punk rock bands from everywhere, and of course, the grimy drunken pool parties. Hotel room and $15 vodka slushies not included, but there are mohawks and cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon as far as the eye can see. Oh and cigarettes. There was certainly no shortage of nicotine creeping in the atmosphere at any time. In fact, if you didn't smell ciggs, beer and barf, you weren't within walking distance to the scene.
I always shoot for the Velvet Margarita in Hollywood, and the owners of that bar also own the new Backstage Bar & Billiards and the Fremont Country Club, both right next door to each other in downtown Vegas on Fremont St. The main acts like The Descendants and The Adicts were playing the festival stage, but some of the smaller and other acts were booked for the Fremont Country Club and Backstage Bar, or as locals call it, "Triple B". My dude and I rolled into town at 7am, delirious and grumpy as hell, and ended up checking into the wrong hotel. Turns out, we were comp'd at The Golden Nugget for the weekend instead. It's got a pool with a shark tank and a slide. Concerns? Nada. We slept for maybe two or three hours and then immediately got to work. It was an all-day and all-night shift, ending at sunrise every night...err morning, followed by having either a really late or a really early dinner in the casino with Exene Cervenka, then feeding an extremely intoxicated teeny-tiny Mr. T some cold chili. Seriously. #Vegas
Some of the openers the first few nights I had never seen before or even heard of, but they were all pretty decent acts. I mean, with punk bands, you already know what to expect, but when they're opening for the fucking CROMAGS, you can expect a good time. And maybe some broken bones. The first night at FCC really lit up when A Global Threat took the stage. After that, the Cromags really tore it up. The pit literally took the paint off the floor. It was a sea of PBR cans, enough to make any recycler green with envy.
The second night was a bit tamer, The Briefs being my favorite on the bill, but the band All headlined. The third night was a special night. It was really difficult to keep tight-lipped about the surprise set by COCKSPARRER! 40 years of punk rock! That's like 500 in "punk years". They headline the night before on the main stage at the festival and revealed they were the special guest at Triple B when their roadie cut the strings on their stage banner and it rolled down with the band name and logo. The audience roared. There were 10 photographers in the photo pit for this set with no room to move. Colin McFaull walked out and said "THIS is what Cocksparrer's all about!" referring to playing a smaller stage and the audience sardined together, all unified by the happiness of being in a more intimate setting with the band. Cocksparrer played at the same time Reverend Horton Heat played at FCC so I had to run back there in time to catch them. Both bands closed down the bar. The bar stopped serving while they were still playing and for the third time in a row, we left the bar at dawn, both of us pretty pleased with the fruits of our labor for the weekend.
As with any Vegas trip, you're just as excited to leave the city as you were to arrive after a few days in it. In Vegas time, a few days is like a month. The heat was hot but not that unbearable. Both venues were strongly air conditioned, as was the hotel. Can't wait to see what next year will bring.