The weather was ideal. The Bronx tore up the inside of The Stone Pony. Some local folks got to see Black Flag for the first time in their lives and then Milo went to Asbury. Yes, the Descendents played… the fucking Descendents!
It was literally a perfect weekend for underground music in New Jersey, and in addition to this year’s 18th annual festival in Las Vegas (that has to be some kind of record) the folks at Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival are bringing the good times back to Asbury Park June 9-11.
With existing festivals continuing to thrive and draw hapless hipsters in the latest “festival chic” fashions, Punk Rock Bowling remains a gathering for a culture that couldn’t care less what kind of full brim hat or what band some social media influencer love intensely for a week.
The theme of the festival is obviously some kind of warped version of bowling, and to be clear, there are several teams that will compete at Bradley Beach Bowl. Apparently some teams rolled some balls and knocked some pins down last year, but no one seems to remember who won.
“Dirty punks are just born that way, you can’t manufacture us. It’s kind of like pornography, you can’t exactly describe it, but you know it when you see it,” says Blag Dahlia of the Dwarves, who are veterans in this scene. “The Dwarves have played a lot of different festivals, all over the country and all over the world, but Punk Rock Bowling, the bands and the fans, are in a class by themselves. And yeah, it’s a dirty fucking class!”
Bowling aside, there are several thousand folks who will be there for the music and this year’s lineup is diverse as it is solid. Doors to The Stone Pony Summer Stage open at 2 on Saturday and things kick off with The Vansaders, Ravagers, and Crazy and the Brains. The boot boys kick in mid afternoon when NY’s the Templars play, then the quickly rising young Canadians of Pup, and then The Explosion from Philly, who made a comeback opening at Stoked for the Summer last year.
“Punk Rock Bowling works year after year because they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” offers Matt Hock of The Explosion. “Who gives a shit about seeing Queens of the Stone Age and a Tupac hologram in the middle of the fucking desert? Have good bands, couple it with an American pastime, keep it simple, and go. It’s not watered-down nonsense. It’s bands, beers and balls.”
The much-loved Dillinger Four will keep things going before Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires takes the stage. The 68-year-old crooner aka “The Screaming Eagle of Soul,” didn’t drop his first album, No Time for Dreaming, until 2012. Since then, his electrifying live shows and two follow-up releases have made him a favorite at festivals of all types, and Punk Rock Bowling Event Director Mark Stern was very excited to nail him down to bring more variety to the gathering.
British two-tone ska OG’s The Specials will wrap up the evening. The Specials have a long, storied history that goes back to London in the 1970s, a movement that influenced punk rock as much as any.
The circle pits go all night with club shows (tickets for these are sold separately). Friday night, the punks can choose between the folk-punk acoustics at House of Independents featuring Chuck Ragan, who may or may not have a beard but will likely smell like fish, with Joe Jack Talcum (of the Dead Milkmen) and Jared Hart, or they can get raucous at the Pony with the UK’s Conflict and the Dwarves. Saturday night Sick of it All and the Street Dogs bring hardcore to the Pony.
When the action picks up again on Sunday, the Posers, Bigwig, and Hot Blood will kick things off. Boston’s favorite drinkin’ buddies Darkbuster are sure to give a memorable performance no matter how they sound. The stage then gets turned over to the rude boys of The Pietasters and the crusties of Leftover Crack.
One of the highlights all of New Jersey is looking forward to is the return of Lifetime Sunday evening. The ’90s New Brunswick basement legends haven’t played anywhere close to local since the Pony in October 2014.
Day two’s headliners are pure punk rock with Manchester, UK’s historic Buzzcocks, with frontman Peter Shelley and mostly founding members. Then, anyone still standing by that point in the weekend will not be much longer, as El Hefe, Smelly, Scott Melvin and Fat Mike of NOFX have their way with the crowd to bring it all to a final crash.
“We’ve always loved the Buzzcocks a lot. And wherever Leftover Crack, Dillinger Four and NOFX are, we can probably score some good drugs!” laughs Dahlia.