Day three of Punk Rock Bowling started off with perhaps the biggest “challenge set” of the weekend. Boldness? Blag Dahlia was instructed to make a three hours acoustic brunch set… in the morning… to a group of hungry people… who were probably hungover. I arrived at the Downtown Grand restaurant to find that the place was already filled with a queue around the casino. Fortunately, I arrived just in time to get a seat. A lot of other people weren’t so lucky, unfortunately.
Blag took the stage and admitted straight away that he had no idea how he was going to fill his niche. Well, man is nothing, not a craftsman, and if he is two things, he is a craftsman and a risk taker. And indeed, Blag, who enters Dwarves, solo, Candy Now, Earl Lee Grace, and other projects, had no trouble filling the scene. He took the time to tell jokes here and there, or brag about how he did bluegrass before the ‘bluegrass explosion’ of the ’90s, or just think about how he came to be. play an 11 hour set in front of a group of Vegas drunks. While the dwarves can be bold and offensive, they’re essentially songwriters and that’s what made the three-hour set feel like a 45-minute show. It was light and fun, and I really let you appreciate how good these songs are, and also, that despite the fights on stage and the chatter, Blag is just a nice guy. Not many people could pull it off, but Blag made it seem like it was nothing at all. To that end, halfway through the shoot, Josh Freeze, associated with the Dwarves, showed up with who… why, none other than Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh. Mark seemed to take real pleasure in the acoustics and debauchery of Blag and heckled him from the stage at times, went on stage and started filming Blag while he was playing, and even tipped a pot. , and left a dollar in said tip jar. These are the moments that make PRB so amazing.
Well, back to the main festival, Crazy and brains had a first niche on the side stage. Meeting the challenge, the group detonated a high-energy set based on the previous night’s base. They swirled through a short but punchy set of quick rockers on pizza delivery or depression or grabbing the world for all it’s worth. About 1 to 2,000 people were there and they were INTEGRATED. During the show, singer Chris jumped into the crowd as the group put out their frantic and weird tunes and it looks like the group is growing and becoming new converts. It can be difficult for unique bands to break into (especially in punk, weirdly) but it seems like Crazy and the Brains is on the precipice. They deserve it.
Not too long after, MDC was on the side stage and frontman Dave Dictor appeared to be drinking in the large crowd. He commented on the growth of punk rock and how such a large rally was indeed a victory. This resulted in the group’s set where they played hits and some rarities. Of course, “John Wayne was a Nazi” has been honed, as have some of the new Trump-centric numbers. The interesting thing about MDC is that while the lyrics are often very negative, the band themselves seem happy to keep the fight going. Many groups could take note of this.
On the main stage, ALL flashed through a set of 40 minutes spread out fairly evenly throughout their catalog with Mass nerder get five full songs. The band were energetic and melodic and proved once again that they are the inventors (or co-inventors) of a subgenre that now dominates punk rock.
Back on the secondary scene, English beat kicked off a ready crowd. It seemed like a lot of people were ready to take on the legends of ska. The band sounded great, if maybe a little slow, and the band played some of their biggest hits. Oddly though, the set seemed to end abruptly after 7 or 8 songs, and about 10 minutes before their scheduled end. People seemed disappointed and surprised that it was already over. Did the band just not have enough songs? Was there any misunderstanding about the appointed time? It was a strange appearance.
Back on the main stage, Lunachicks, now primed for their club show, came to rock and they certainly did. In fact, the big stage made the Lunachicks even more Lunachicks-y, with their neon / dayglo combinations really lighting up the scene. They made the most of the large space to go back and forth and turn it into a raging performance. The group made their hits and some rarities. They oscillated between their fast, explosive numbers and their slow, low rumble, almost metallic crushers and the crowd was inside. Again, “Jerk of All Trades” was a smash and it was really good that this often overlooked group got at least some of what was owed.
The secondary stage concluded its evening with Municipal waste. At this point we all know what we’re going to get with MW – hard rock, hard party, somewhat comedic thrash metal. And that’s what the band gave and the audience was eager to take it. MW has a bit of a limited range but in a festival like this it works wonders.
And finally, to close the festival itself, on the main stage was … DEVO. And let me tell you, there’s a reason for Devo… it’s because they’re amazing. Surprisingly, the band debuted with four (more) new tracks – including ‘Don’t shoot’ and ‘Peek-a-boo’ as they were backed up by an ever-evolving giant video element. It’s not always said, but with these songs it proves that not only are Devo pioneers of punk and new wave, but they are also explorers of electronic music at the level of Kraftwerk, haunting Gristle and Human League. And then, after that, it was off to racing blow after blow after blow. “Girl U Want”, “Uncontrollable Urge”, “Whip It”, “Gates of Steel”, – it was all there. At one point, the group donned their hazardous waste suits and pieced together a scene from their videos. After that, they tore them to shreds. At another point, they were all wearing monkey masks while singing to De-evolution.
And to boot, they looked fantastic. In fact, it looks like they’ve updated their sound to really bring out the great outdoors. The music was loud, punchy and really, really fun. Few bands can capture all the ears of fans of all punk subgenres, but frankly everyone loved Devo and it was well deserved. I don’t know if the setting was special for Devo or “just another festival performance”, but it was special for us. (Although, I will say, it seemed like Devo had really come to give it his all).
And what can you do after an AMAZING, shocking, breathtaking, head-banging weekend? Well you gotta go to the patio of the big downtown pool for one last pool party to see The slackers. Slackers are accomplished professionals, but despite that, they kind of keep the excitement of performance and fun in their music. As the band produced their soul ska, which was pleasing to the ears and even more pleasing to the soul, I thought to myself… “Why, only eight months before I can start over…”