Thursday, April 30, 2015

Deez Nuts Word Is Bond Review

Word Is Bond
Century Media Records
Review by hutch

If you love hardcore for the sake of hardcore, as I do, Deez Nuts deliver an incredible album. For fans of bands like Skare Tactic, Donnybrook, Terror, Madball, this is the jam. Admittedly, when I first heard of these dudes, I thought the name was laughable. But for whatever it triggers in you, as immature as it may seem, this is serious hardcore. Founder and vocalist, Peters, JJ addresses this in “Pour Up” with a bold declaration, “never let the man hold you down, never grow up”.

This is Peters’ fourth full length for DN; plus they’ve had EPs. Deez Nuts is a relentless tour machine. That synergy has fused a tight bond and energy between the band members. Many ex-members of bigger bands have played for Peters, now he has Matt Rogers, guitar; Sean Kennedy, bass (like Peters, an ex-IKTPQ); Alex Salinger, drums. Production was handled by Andrew Neufeld (Comeback Kid) and Shane Frisby (Bury Your Dead, The Ghost Inside). And while those aren’t bands that I associate with DN’s type of hardcore, they handled the job marvelously. Deez Nuts sound better than ever. There is a good thick crunch to Rogers’ riffs.

The Deez Nuts’ lyrics of past have been reviewed and explored as harnessing a ‘party vibe”. I can see where that would rile up there demographic. With the unabashed hip hop influence, older songs sound like a hardcore version of rap; check the “Make Money, Money!” chant from “I Hustle Everyday”. But here, the anger is more focused. The lyrics now hone in on self-reliance and unity among outsiders. And while these are common themea in the subculture of outcasts, it never gets old to me. Hardcore is often good at sniffing out posers. Deez Nuts have many guests in the past claiming the real. As someone who has the news fed through an IV and works a desk job; the constant stress of feeling depressed and inadequate needs a rebuttal.

Photo by Dennis Tesch
This is not some breakdown band on repeat. This is fast moving hardcore band with the beat not stuck in idle repeat, but drums moving forward. Punkier bass lines feed an energetic “Word Is Bond”. Moments of two step occur. But take a song like “What’s Good” and the whole track is almost a breakdown. Kung Fu kicks will be ravaging venues. While “What I Gotta Do” is a bullet train, with a swing.
Oddly enough from bands Deez Nuts associates with; there is no additional bass drops or auto-tune. Deez Nuts boast no clean singing parts. This is straight modern heavy hardcore. The energy and fire that Deez Nuts put forth relays vicious stamina. Songs of perseverance and fighting hard should get old fans swinging fists in the pit and new fans piling on.

RIYL: Terror, Trapped Under Ice, Rotting Out, Skarhead, (first) Your Demise, Stray From the Path, Malfunction

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Violent Reaction Interview for Marching On

Violent Reaction Interview
With Tom Pimlott (vocals)
Marching On
Revelation Records.

By hutch
LINE UP:  Razor, guitars; Charlie, Guitars; Nick, Drums; Colin, Bass; Tom, Vocals

When Tom Pimlott lists his current line-up for Violent Reaction, he appends their resumes as they all have been in “a million bands”. He quietly states that he also drums for The Flex (an amazing band) and all these members additionally rotate to form Arms Race. Those are only the current bands. As I talk to Pimlott in the New York hotel, the band sits behind him for help and jest. The jets on the plane that transported them from the UK to the US are still cooling as Violent Reaction crash our shores. They have a show each day on this tour, where they will double bill with Arms Race as well. Eleven days is the time in which Violent Reaction is given to decimate stages. They also added DC’s Damaged City Fest last minute, because, well, idle hands, I guess. Straight Edge protagonists, their work ethic flies a banner for the movement.

Pimlott lists the cities of the tour, like an ad hoc grocery list. “DC, RVA, Philly, Boston. That’s two shows; a day show at The Elks with No Tolerance and Chain Rank, the night show is at the Boiler Room with Stand Off and Leather Daddy. That’s gonna be sick.” I remind him of Pittsburgh on the 9th, as he tries to order his brain. “Yep. NYC tonight. Then Damaged City tomorrow. We have played the last two years. They’re our friends. Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, and…”. “Rochester,” someone offers from the background.

Short, fast, loud, and angry are adjectives to describe the furious hardcore Violent Reaction play. Influences like Negative Reaction, Minor Threat, SSD, Agnostic Front tied in with 4 Skins and Blitz are obvious and appreciated.  Recent bands like Set to Explode, 86 Mentality, Wasted Time, Sectarian Violence can be counted as peers.  Marching on is the most focused Violent Reaction has been since it began as Pimlott’s one man project. The 2012 seven inch was Pimlott only. But by, 2013, for their impressive City Streets full length, he had a full band. Marching On marks a time with everyone writing music and contributing. “It came together faster, painless. And it still sounds like us.”

After two releases on Boston indie label, Painkiller, Revelation releasing this new album has to be a major step. Pimlott, however, reacts casually when I ask about a rigorous process. “They just asked us. We were just minding our business. We weren’t shopping around,” Tom states plainly. However, that tepid response in no way diminishes his pride. “We have all listened to this label since we first got into hardcore.” Tom also notes, “we are the first non-American band to be on Revelation.”

James Atkinson, of UK hardcore icons, Voorhees, produced the album. Atkinson knows how to get that dirty, yet crisp, hardcore fidelity as buzzsaw guitars parallel roiling drums. “It was relaxed.” Pimlott elaborates, “(Atkinson) was cracking jokes. He is our usual guy. He did our last album.” Like the songs they write, the process of recording was short and fast. “We did most of it in one day. He just presses record. Other producers, they stick their nose in. He knows what he is doing. He lets us do our thing.”

The album expresses that urgency. It sounds as if it was recorded live. The functionality of a band that plays so vigorously together, in multiple bands, comes across with a distinguished ferocity. Pimlott concurs, “We like the way we sound live. So we did it live.” The background corrects slightly again. “Oh right, we did one guitar track and the bass and drums live. Then we added leads and then vocals.” Despite the concrete line-up now, Violent Reaction lost their bassist right before recording. “Charlie was a champ. He did the bass and the leads. It was a busy day,” Pimlott laughs as he describes what will be a classic hardcore album decades from now being completed in a day and a half.

The venomous, disdainful lyrics espousing rebellion are of the “usual punk rock lyrics,” Pimlott dismisses. He states in their live sets that they do Boston and UK and DC hardcore band covers; as I had noted their style is akin. “DC is our second home. So is Boston. We have just as many friends in those cities. Actually, Philly is like that for us too. Los Angeles has many friends for us. Oh, and all of Texas.” These additions of secondary and tertiary homes relay that Violent Reaction are playing true hardcore with sincerity and humility. The honest and vicious execution of punk rock cultivates their friendships, fans and any scene they play. 

Monolord Interview for Vaenir

Riding Easy Records
Interview with Esben Williams (drums) by hutch

Monolord came out of nowhere to drop Empress Rising less than a year ago. Most metalheads quickly placed it in a top slot of their year’s end lists for 2014. Initially formed as a side project in 2013, out of the ashes of Swedish bands Marulk and Rotten Sound, guitarist and vocalist, Thomas Jäger, drummer, Esben Willems, and bassist, Mika Häkki, Monolord shot of Sweden to decimate ear drums. Together, the trio cranks out fuzz soaked, slow doom metal riffs. Heavy as hell and plodding, the nefarious, churning atmosphere staggers through speakers onto audiences trapped in awe.

This April, Monolord is releasing Vaenir, an album of completely new material. Willems explains, “We always work on new stuff. We started pre-productions directly after the masters to Empress Rising were delivered. Itchy fingers, you know. It wasn't an elaborate PR plan, we just love making new music.” They garnered enough focus to have the final track of the six track album stand at seventeen minutes.

Even still, this relays the fervent energy and dedication these men have to Monolord. “We're pretty efficient when we record,” continues Willems. “Our studio is my portable equipment that is more or less permanently set up in our rehearsal space. We produced it. I engineered, mixed and mastered it. In a band, it comes in handy to be a professional sound tech.

The conversation of an objective outsider was bandied between members. “That's both a discussion of budget and finding that perfect person that's brilliant at hers or his job and, on top of that, understands and likes the band's ambitions. And we're skeptical old fucks”
That internal formula has worked exceptionally. The bass line is accented and utilized to propel sinister doom riffs. Vaenir is a more focused album, with cleaner production; without losing a sense of the heavy. “We see Vænir as a natural development of our sound. The foundation is the same, but we keep on evolving our songwriting. At least that's our ambition.”

The pressure is not felt in the band, but many fans have to wonder if Vaenir is a project of opportunity or momentum. The pressure to duplicate was not internalized; but it was recognized. “We were really surprised by the response to Empress Rising, to be honest. It's always a bit nervous to release new material, and twice as much when it's with a new band. To get the response we got was insane. The good kind of insane. We're still a bit high from that feeling. Regarding the stress of recording new material, it was both stressful and not at all. We record and produce everything ourselves. The songwriting and recording environment are second homes. With worse coffee, that is. But it's a comfortable place to work on new stuff. Actually, it's an escape from the reality outside.”
Willems’ calm personality and humble honesty welcome questions with a direct embrace. Stress is not conveyed in his inflections. Willems conveys the simplistic approach to a highly lauded album. The doom genre has seen much genre-splicing, but Monolord harnesses a direct lineage to tradidtion. “Our goal has always been to write and record music that we feel is the heaviest and grittiest rumble that we are able to produce. Depending on the listener, I guess there are people who like it because of their perception of authenticity, but that's not been our guideline.”

Monolord are exposing audiences to this new material, along with “oldies”, across Europe. Willems lists, “We just came back from a European tour almost three weeks long. The next upcoming show is opening for Candlemass in a town nearby, Uddevalla. After that, it's Roadburn Festival and Berlin. And some festival dates during the summer that we'll announce soon.”

As members were surprised by the interest in their once side project’s music, Willems insists that the main focus for all three is Monolord. He quickly appends his statement, “But there are always other side projects going on, which I think is really good for the drive and the inspiration.” That inspiration is motivated by the usual dark doom themes. “Our permanent theme is more or less misanthropy. The disgust for what humans do to each other is an endless source of inspiration.” Provided much fodder from a few minutes of world news, coupled with Monolord’s restlessness, maybe in another eight months, audiences will have album number three. “We're usually eager to make new stuff. As soon as we've caught our breath from our recent tour, we will start jamming out some new fuzz, that's for sure.”

Abominator Interview for Evil Proclaimed

Evil Proclaimed
Heads Hellbangers
Interview by hutch with: Chris Volcano
Line-up: Chris Volcano – Drums & vocals, Andrew Gillon – Guitars, BM Brad – Bass & Vocals

 “It all started on a blood chilling day in late 1994, when I forged a pact with Andrew (Gillon) to write beastly tunes for Satan.”  A bold mission statement is precisely what defines the Melbourne, Australia metal band, Abominator. Despite many line-ups, the core of Chris Volcano and Gillon, recently recruiting new bassist, BM Brad, deliver their new album, Evil Proclaimed. Their sound may have evolved, but the fire inside burns brighter.

“Today, it feels as though we have started the band all over again.” Volcano discusses his spark after commenting that this album took a long time to record. “We remember what it was that motivated us in the beginning, but we have wiser heads on our shoulders. The band can continue in the darkest possible direction for the next few years. The new album is massive, but also harsh and scathing.”

Volcano is direct about the disease of current metal bands’ grand production techniques. He secures Abominator’s oath to “not falling victim to a weak, overly digital production. It is absolute black chaos from start to finish.” Volcano’s pride is palpable; as sin is worth total indulgence. Abominator produced Evil Proclaimed with Sam Johnson on the boards and Alan Douches of West West Side mastering the album. Seeking premier professionals is “a product of the way we chose to do things. We've had enough experience to know what does and doesn't work. Money wasn't really a factor, as we paid for some of the recording ourselves.”

Reading some early rviews online, I am confused by some purists wanting a strictly defined, genre aligned album. Volcano laughs at these rigid “wimps”.  After the two decades which Abominator has recorded, people should expect change. “It is impossible for a band like us to go into a studio and replicate the sound from our first album, it just doesn't work like that. The album is relentless, heavy, raw, and chaotic. It is more or less straight black metal, but it does have the aesthetic of that time honored tradition of the bestial sound.  If you are a true black/death maniac, there is enough variation in tempos and riffing to get your head around.”

Opening already this year for Black Metal legends, Marduk and Inquisition, Abominator are looking to tour. For now, the Melbourne scene is where Abominator will play their home scene. Members have other bands; Ignivomous, Cemetary Urn, and Voidchrist, perpetually participating in the scene. Volcano is quick to boast about Australia’s strong metal history. Volcano is quick to list many current and historical bands. “Australia has had a rich and diverse metal scene for years now. There are a lot of bands who are trying to be the next big thing in tech death or the next Dark Funeral. We need more young bloods who crave the bestial sounds of old.”

That 1994 oath Volcano procured with Gillon has been fulfilled with creating savage war metal. There is the portion addressing who it is created for, though. “Satan, and the portrayal of it, is very important to us, but it is crucial to express it in the right way. It represents the duality of our human condition, and I have some deep demons to deal with. I use this music as a focus for that dark, primal energy. It has been fascinating for me to learn about Satanism and various branches of occult knowledge. It is not necessarily about the outright praise of evil, but an understanding and acceptance that the darkness is a fundamental aspect of life on this Earth plane. Besides, God and Satan are very subjective in terms of the forces that currently influence this world. Somebody like myself may be closer to the truth than your average hypocritical Christian. Look at the rich and greedy elite, how they ravage the environment, brainwash people and send people off to their doom in wars they have created.”

Volcano boasts that this is no image like some black metal bands. “For me, it is a way of life, especially having experienced the spiritual dissociation from the rest of society. That is the extent of it. I perform Satanic art, but I haven't got time to go out and burn churches or sodomize goats. That is not how it (actually) works anyway. Literally, there is a divine force in the universe, as well as a force opposing it.”
While those opinions may seem brash or abstract, it pales to Volcano’s distress over the tangible plane’s fruit of the metal scene. “I don't think metal could get any more popular in such a fickle society, unless there was a massive paradigm shift away from shitty mainstream culture. If that were to happen, you can be sure that others like me will have had nothing to do with it. None of the true fans want it to get that big anyway, it just wouldn't be the same.”

Chris Volcano suggests other Australian metal:




Lifeless Interview Dream Album

Fast Break! Records
Interview by hutch
Interview with: Jeremy
Members: Jeremy – Vocals; Kyle – Guitar; Michael – Drums; Ryan – Bass; Jay - Guitar

Lifeless NLFTW formed from the ashes of Dead and Buried and When These Days End in 2008. Reborn, the members spewed vitriolic hardcore based metal from the start. Their demo and debut full length surprised the scene with the hate and furor compacted in three minute tracks. Lifeless followed up with a seven inch on Harvcore again. Lifeless continued touring, providing sweat drenched angry shows for legions of hardcore kids ready to exorcise their demons. Lifeless play hardcore in the vein of Born From Pain, 100 Demons, and Integrity without apology. Now, on Fast Break! Records, Lifeless’ Dreams unleashes the most focused and calculated music they have created yet.

This album is as heavy as heavy gets. Tell me about production/recording? Working with Len Carmichael?
In previous recordings, we rushed certain aspects of them. This session, however, we really took our time. The time from the pre-production demos to the final product was literally a year. We continue to grow and evolve just as Len Carmichael does. With his “devil's advocate” approach at times, he kept us on our toes to put out our best efforts and ideas. He is easy to deal with, but not a push-over. He voices his honest opinions for the benefit of the band and the overall recording. To us, Dream is exactly how Lifeless should have sounded in a studio all along.

How is FastBreak! Records?
It's great to work with people who you look up to, who are your friends, and who want to take a serious and professional approach to releasing and promoting the music. The truly organic music we make without taking control of any process other than pressing the record and putting the word out there with us. They believed in us and gave us the wheel to steer as we saw fit. Truly, it's been a great, rewarding, and eye-opening experience.

Are you anxious to get this out – been four years since a full length.
Yes and no. Anxious because some of these songs are two years old, but we all agreed not to rush the recording process. Now that we're on the cusp of it landing in people's hands and putting it out there for everyone to hear, the anxiety somewhat subsides.

“But the hoping is useless, cuz it won’t ever change” – so what should we put effort into?
That lyric is really talking about working day to day while barely affording the roof over your head, food in your stomach, and trying to find a better way to live your life instead of sitting there hoping things will just change one day and you will be happy. Most people accept their fate, work their lives away, and wait for the ultimate price to be paid; death. If anything, find what you truly believe is right, “your path” in other words, and peruse it at all costs whatever it may be.

Your lyrics are quite negative (that’s why I like it) – or should I say realistic? *“All the people you love will turn on you… there’s nothing you can do” What makes life worth putting effort into (like a band…)?
I'd say the biggest thing that gets me up each day is this band and the experiences I have through hardcore. The anticipation and excitement of playing or going to the next show is what really keeps me going most of the time. It's the only place I can really let go of strife. I feel better than I ever do anywhere else. I hold onto that vibe with me until the next show.

What does 2015 hold for tours/shows?

Shows, shows, and more shows to support the release of Dream. We are playing a few fests, some of which have been announced and some that haven't, but we will get our ugly mugs and angry, “dark hardcore” jams everywhere we can get them. From all over the US, to Europe, and hopefully even Japan. Just not Canada; their border control really doesn't like us for some reason! We're angels, I swear.

Hard Left Interview

Hard Left Interview
We Are Hard Left
Future Perfect Records
Interview with Mike (vocals) and Tim (guitar) by hutch

Hard Left are: 
Mike: exhortations 
Donna: bass, vocals 
Tim: guitar, vocals 
Stewart: drums, vocals 

In case you are unfamiliar with the skinhead subculture, or at least the full spectrum of the scene, a common mantra is “no politics”. As skinheads represent the working class of every country throughout the globe, this minute microcosm is colored by every brush of the political palette. Often, at gigs or fests or pubs, politics are eschewed in order to avoid conflict. And, to clarify, if ‘skinhead’ triggers an old stereotype, racism is not politics. The “no politics” agreement is not to encourage non-racists to shove their head in the sand while their brethren salute the Fuhrer at whim. This understanding exists so that a skinhead from France and one from Texas can share pints and discuss important things like first pressings of Alton Ellis forty-five’s or the pros and cons of different 4-Skins’ vocalists without sliding into disagreeing on the institution of social medicine. *(this said, most are intelligent adults who can discuss politics without getting out of control.)

 Hard Left throw that cordial oath aside and wave their beyond-liberal flags on the sleeves. Tim explains how the idea materialized. “Mike and I were talking that it would be fun. I’d play guitar and he said he’ll sing, which he never had. But if we would have an Oi band, it has to be left wing. For obvious reasons.”

However, the reasons were not obvious, as I had not known these guys. “We’re both left wing.” Mike expands, “our political beliefs were not a big part in prior bands. This time we want to do more than have great songs and laughs. The message is important. We love this style of music, but the scene is stridently apolitical or right wing. We wanted to be upfront about this.” This aspect has the potential to cause trepidation in the band. “I already got trolled on facebook.”

Mike was already called ‘oppressive’ by a white power user. Hard Left simply want to seize the opportunity. “I think it’s great if apolitical people want to listen. But they will get a message.” Tim adds, “the apolitical aspect about fun and style is tired for me. We want to put on a different gloss. While not ‘skinheads’, we are steeped in the culture; the music, the fashion.” Sham 69 and Oi are the basis of the sound. “We are trying to unseat what it means to be working class. If you want fun and apolitical, you are missing content that could be there.”

Despite Mike citing that the left wing has a strong long history with British scenes, the hard kicking music should be heard, and not always eclipsed by the political stance of Hard Left. It is drenched in Mod and Pub Rock style. Mike revels in their intent. “We’re old, been in a bunch of bands. We wanted to be in a band with terrace rocking beats and ripping guitars full of feedback and anthem songs with great lyrics. This is the band we want to be in.” Tim shares the elation in the layers and tangents of their musical direction. Tim guides band decision on what he (and they) would like. “Would we want to see this? Yes. Let’s do it. Marching in with drums and flags? Check. Fred Perrys? Check. Anthems? Check.”

This attitude forms one hell of a record, which drops on May 12, 2015. Tim and Mike simplified the formula. Tim pushes, “We kept it simple. The mixing principle was to make the toms loud and add clapping. Make it anthemic.” Mike agrees, “everything is so pumping. I can’t picture these tunes sounding any better. I think it’s the best album I have ever heard.” Mike qualifies this bold statement. “I usually play guitar and I didn’t. So, I am removed and objective. Our drummer, Stewart , lives in Arizona. He recorded it. Tim and I worked with our bassist, Donna.  We sent Stewart demos with no drums. We went there and ran through each song, one to two times. He is an amazing drummer with great concepts. “Stewart is the right man for job. He’s English,” adds Tim. “He grew up with punk rock and all the terrace glam stuff, Slade. It is in his musical DNA.”

Mike lauds, “Stu makes it seem effortless.  Our sound can be said as, ‘77 punk. But people only think of the Clash. They’re great, but that’s not our sound. We come from the football terraces, the early Oi. That stomping punk sound with driving beats, shouting choruses. But, still, Oi does not tell the whole story.” The Pub Rock sound of early Who, Cock Sparrer, Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts, and specifically early Cockney Rejects are on target. Punk bands beyond The Clash like 999, The Ruts, The Damned, and Slaughter & The Dogs fill in the rest.

Hard Left has record release shows soon. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland are on the list. Stewart will attend those shows as they are planned ahead. But Hard Left will be on the search for a drummer who is available to play out of town. Hard Left plan to visit the East Coast and the Northwest in the summer. They want to go to Europe feeling they “would be well-received,” declares Tim. “We have made good connects in UK and Germany. Our message and music will be taken seriously as a provocation in German highly politicized, in a good way.”

Oakland is the home of Tim and Mike. They find constant inspiration from their environment. They see it as “unbelievably diverse and integrated, more so than other cities,” Mike claims. “People tend to live in a checkerboard. Oakland is, it sounds hokey, but, ‘multi cultural’. The structural diversity is amazing.” Tim calls it “electric with flavor. The city is organically integrated, not due to social engineering. It’s real.”

When I think of Oakland, I think of bands like Dystopia and Neurosis; painting a crusty punk, anarchistic, squat, DIY musical landscape. Mike notes that the Oaktown is “gnarly and crusty with warehouse parts. Music is a logical reaction to it environment.” And that is where Mike distinguishes Hard Left’s music. “We are not reacting against it. We are feeding off the energy and diversity. Oakland is still a city, gritty.”  Tim continues this thought, “There is the Black Panther history. That flavor still exists. Hard Left doesn’t partake in the gutter punk thing, or garage-y, which is big here.” So, while the tones and tunes are executed differently, the message is on par.

“The band is ideologically eclectic.” Tim states. “We lean into anarchism. People who do work should benefit from it. Tradition and ideological history which holds a democratic practice is what we support; initiatives that push people working for their own emancipation. We value Marx, his analysis is important. But we are Anti-Bolshevic.” Mike explains, “Marx is super relevant right now. I was at a march the other day for teacher union labor dispute; my son is a Kindergarten teacher. Communist party was there and I was talking to them. They are mired in bureaucracy, We come from the bottom up movement and action is best embodied by anarchism.”

Even the foundation of Hard Left is a statement, just by the nature of the members. Tim notes quickly, “we have a woman; which differentiates us from bands in our genre. It is nice to have the songs be less cookie cutter with her shouts.” It adds a texture to their energetic songs. Donna is “not ornamental”.

Mike is uncompromising in her pedigree. “She is amazing bass player, powerful. It’s important, the idea of having a woman in the band.” Tim appends any notions, “her being in the band is not contrived. But, it’s great and goes with politics of self empowerment in the band. Women having a voice adds more diversity. If women aren’t free none of us free.” I note that I feel the skinhead scene, especially more than metal or hardcore or even pop, embrace the women significantly. Unless a girl proves herself to be a decoration or coat rack, female skins get concrete respect in the scene.

Mark Stern Interview Punk Rock Bowling

Punk Rock Bowling May 22-25 2015
Interview with Mark Stern of BYO Records (Youth Brigade)
by hutch

Brothers, Shawn and Mark Stern
 Mark Stern first appeared to most angry kids of the eighties on their turntables or tv screens. Playing in Youth Brigade, Stern got to express himself and cultivate a national scene. Scraping through the US with Minor Threat and Social D, Stern spread the gospel of hardcore for people to now visualize beyond the turntable.  He and his brother, Shawn, started their own DIY label in 1982 while playing in a band and touring. Four decades and multiple releases for most punk bands you like, or at least their grandfathers, BYO is a template for business in the underground scene.
And now Stern has Punk Rock Bowling as his next aging gift to punk. Seventeen years on, Punk Rock Bowling has shed its small party structure to a multi-day Fest in downtown Las Vegas. “It’s our sixth year as a fest; our fifth downtown.”

“Why Vegas?” I ask. I’ve never been. I don’t get the allure.

Mark easily dismisses, “Cuz its Vegas. Twenty-four hour bars. You can get away with anything. Now we’re Downtown. You get three days of outdoor shows and four days of club shows.” The shows are placed strategically around two hotels which are in walking distance.

“We used to have it just outside of the city, in Henderson.  It got to the point where we just took over.” Stern tells me about how it had been going well until a general manager made some changes five years ago. “He increased the price of the drinks. I had wanted to keep drink prices down. But he also allowed re-entry which I didn’t want. And I knew what would happen. The hotels were across from a Costco and a Wal-Mart. People bought tons of beer there. Then they partied in their rooms and planned to come back for later bands.” Or never came back. The hotel was honored to have four thousand punks power-drinking in the afternoon. Things got broken. Police were called. 

 Stern quickly took what was started as a private party for bands and labels, and looked for a new geography. And a larger one. He wanted toi step it up and have it be a small punk city for a few days. Punk Rock Bowling – which still embraces the bowling as seriously as the music – is now associated with the dude who started Zappos, 41 year old, Tony Hsieh. Hsieh had bought some land downtown and they moved the fest. The timing added another dimension and aided in propagating a better culture in which to grow this fest. “It helped spark restaurants and clubs and venues. Everything is new. It’s becoming a real city,” Stern explains with a content exhale.

“There will be comedy shows, poker, art galleries. We have classic punk rock photographers showing in the gallery. Last year we had Peter and The Test Tube Babies at the pool party. The pool party is awesome.” This begins at 3pm Friday and kicks off the event. Each day has a film screening. Bloodied and Unbowed is Saturday with Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL on Sunday and Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO records, is on Monday, fittingly.

My OCD quivers. But he insists on the party vibe. Unshaken, he explains that he has been putting on shows since he was eighteen. “I put on the first punk show at the Hollywood Bowl.” I know his pedigree, but still four days with these many cogs has to be intimidating. Stern reverts back to what kept each state of growth so natural. “The punk scene, we were tight. It was a complete DIY vibe. In 1999, it was a cool party.”

In May of 2010, PRB had to be moved to outdoor shows. Stern begins to list every country that punks abandon for the weekend to join this melee. He could have instead saved time by listing the two dudes from Ghana who missed the plane. So many people.

So Many Bands. “I’m stoked to have Frank Turner, finally, been asking him for years.” Turner will be playing an acoustic bill at a club. Stern can’t contain the enthusiasm for some killer sets from the main stage bands. “We got Murder City Devils, Rancid doing Out Come the Wolves twentieth anniversary, Bosstones, Dropkicks doing their first album, and since Street Dogs are in town, maybe Mike will come out? We have Refused. Turbonegro. Then, there are five club shows at venues each night.” These pair usual underground headliners together. The Templars, The Beltones, Bishops Green, Booze & Glory all in one show. There’s a line up for every shade of punk. Stern spills the formula. “Not the same genre, but I keep it cohesive. You approach it like it’s a compilation or a set list. I have been making those for forty years. Don’t do a random mesh,” Stern practically unveils. “I got the ‘77 group with The Weirdos and Rezillos and Dickies. Acoustic with Tim Barry, Dave Hause, Kevin Seconds.” And 7 Seconds has their night with FUS and Street Dogs. GBH will headline with Abrasive Wheels and Infa Riot and a name I have not heard since the late 90’s, Schleprock. 88 Fingers Louie are returning to a stage, with Strung Out - who have a new album dropping - and Pulley: that punk band with the major league pitcher (Scott Radinsky) “I have a Ska bill. A Rockabilly bill.” Yeah he does, with names like Bad Manners, English Beat and Mobtown. Stern still adds “and there will be a hundred little parties and DJs and room parties. There’s a beer garden. Cheap drinks. “Hand-picked food trucks. We make sure there is a variety; vegan and vegetarian and meat. I want it to be the Anti-Fest.  Not Overwhelming.”

Not a shock is that they sold sixty-five hundred tickets for each day.  A penetrating anxiety kept pulling at me. Not surprisingly, Stern tells me he has to start planning in September each year. He has to “get things rolling by October. We like to announce headliners before Christmas.”

That’s when my OCD snaps and I ask how many people he has working with him to organize all this planning. “It’s just me,” he announces to my jaw ajar and eyebrows vexed. “I personally book each band. We have a hundred plus bands. I designed the fest grounds, picked the themes. We have some cool ones this year.” All of this is said like he set the table; spoons lazily placed in proximity to the knife. “Some people come just for the room and pool parties. It’s a smorgasbord.”

Oh, the Humpers have a night with Los Creepers and The Hangmen. Icons of Filth are playing with Krum Bums and Anti-Vision. Mike Virus pulls double duty with Cheap Sex and Evacuate sets. And these are the clubs. The main stage will have Sick Of It All, The Business, Bombshell Rocks, Sniper 66 (angry, dark, fast punk from Texan youngens). Crust legends, Conflict are on the list. Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. The poster lists another dozen other bands; including, A Wilhelm Scream, Anti-Flag and Mahones.

As I am feeling over whelmed, Stern insists Punk Rock Bowling continues as just a laid-back theme park with every possible option. Distracted by the music I forget that there is competitive bowling. And tons of pick-up games. He plans PRB with sympathy and as a truly seasoned participant. “That’s why I sell the drinks cheap. People can plan to drink all day. And eat. Hang out and catch up with old friends and make a bunch of new ones. Have some time off.” Stern wants everyone to hang out; call it the casual approach to punk mayhem and chaotic indulgence.  “I don’t want it to grow. It sells out each year. But, if we grew, we would have to be in a big desert or field, add TV screens. Who comes to a concert to watch it on a screen? And honestly, I don’t want to contend twenty-five thousand people. I’d rather have four thousand people together.” And Stern means that as a promoter and a member of the audience and the subculture. “Last year, I had Cock Sparrer play to four hundred people. It was crazy. They were incredible. Bands love it. They get nervous. But, I have seen these bands play their best sets. Angelic Upstarts played an amazing tight set. And they ain’t young.” Most of us aren’t.  But it appears that Mark Stern has matured this fest into a place where a real punk community, thriving on DIY ideals can exist for a few days.