The annual Punk Rock Bowling & Music Festival makes its second consecutive run on the East Coast, as this two-day shindig returns to the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park this summer. For those who attended last year’s festivities, Asbury Park’s first installment featured performances from the likes of the Descendents, Dag Nasty, Flag, Cock Sparrer, H2O and Agnostic Front, to name a few. With another exciting weekend of summer shenanigans at the Jersey Shore on its way, not only does this year’s Punk Rock Bowling feature The Specials, Buzzcocks and NOFX, the lineup also includes a highly-anticipated set from New Jersey-based seminal punk icons, Lifetime.
Highly regarded as an influential act who paved the way for New Brunswick to become an epicenter for underground music, Lifetime crafted together a timeless blend of melodic punk and emotionally-driven hardcore that inspired many New Jersey bands, including Saves The Day and Thursday. Disbanding shortly after the release of their acclaimed effort, Jersey’s Best Dancers, members of Lifetime went on to play in bands like Kid Dynamite, Paint It Black, Zero Zero and Miss TK And The Revenge, all before reuniting in 2005.
Since their return, Lifetime released their fourth album, Lifetime, in 2006 and made several live appearances over the years, from intimate club gigs, to large-scale festivals like The Fest, This Is Hardcore and Gorezrock. With their upcoming performance at Punk Rock Bowling, this will be Lifetime’s first show back at The Stone Pony since playing there with Mouthpiece, Lemuria and Spraynard in 2014.
I had the opportunity to chat with Lifetime frontman Ari Katz about their upcoming appearance at Punk Rock Bowling, and his excitement to watch The Specials and Buzzcocks perform just a few blocks away from his home in Asbury Park. Katz and I also discussed his latest musical effort, Mity Lion, and the “Doing It For Dave” tribute concert held this past April to celebrate the life of late Vision frontman, Dave Franklin.
This summer, Lifetime will be playing this year’s Punk Rock Bowling in Asbury Park. How did this opportunity come about?
Well, they asked us to play last year, and we just couldn’t do it. When I was there, I told them, “Hey, make sure you ask us to do it again.” And they asked us. We’ve known the Stern brothers [Shawn and Mark] who put on the show for a long time. We were almost on their label [BYO Records], so we have a decent enough relationship. They’re awesome, and I’m totally psyched.
My first time seeing Lifetime in concert was when you played inside the Stone Pony with Mouthpiece and Lemuria in 2014. What’s it like to come back to the Pony again to play outside on the Summer Stage?
Once we started playing again… already a long time ago, we’ve done quite a bunch of festivals and stuff like that. More often than not, I think we do play things that are on big stages, with big crowds. I’m psyched to just play down the street from my house because I live in Asbury. It’s going to be so fun.
Asbury Park has always had a flourishing underground scene that brings together all sorts of bands to the Jersey Shore. Are there any bands in the scene right now that you’ve been into as of late?
Hmm… let me think. There’s a bunch of stuff that’s starting to brew right now. I’m friends with the guys in Seaside Caves—they’re a really good band from Asbury. There’s definitely a lot of bands around, but I am excited see… what new things are happening. So, I’m looking forward to that.
Are there any parallels of the Asbury Park music scene that remind you of the days when Lifetime was around playing shows in New Brunswick?
Yeah, for sure. Definitely because everybody from New Brunswick moved here (laughs). A lot of our friends that I lived with or down the street from me in New Brunswick live here now. I bump into people that I’ve known forever.
This past April, you had the opportunity to play a cover set with Pete and Bryan of The Bouncing Souls, and also shared the stage with Vision at Dave Franklin’s memorial show, “Doing It For Dave.” What was it like to see such a huge turnout in celebration of Dave’s life?
It’s kind of hard to describe, you know? I wasn’t surprised at all at the turnout to be honest with you because Dave really was a special guy. He was really influential in a lot of people’s lives as he was in mine. When I started my first band in high school, he kind of took me under his wing. Whether I’d hang out at his house, play in his basement and go skating with him, he was just one of those guys that… he shared any kind of knowledge that he had on how to do things. He was willing to help people along, and give people a leg up, you know? People don’t forget that at all.
So I wasn’t surprised about the turnout. To be honest, I didn’t realize how many bands were friends of them [Vision] too. The amount of bands that showed up, and gave their time… every band at the show was so good. It was a lot of pressure to be in Dave’s shadow, and I think every band and everyone who performed really brought something extra that day, for sure. So it was a great show. I don’t think something like that can ever really happen again.
It was surreal to see so many people come together for Dave Franklin—I definitely had a wonderful time attending. In the planning stages of that benefit, was there an opportunity for Lifetime to play as well?
Well, I called my buddy Jason—we went to high school together—who was putting the show on, and I said, “Let me know what I could do,” because I figured we’d be doing something. But because of the Punk Rock Bowling that we already committed to, we couldn’t do it. Neither could the Souls because they were busy. So, Pete Steinkopf just called me one night and was like, “Hey, since Lifetime and we can’t do it, do you just want to do some covers?” So, that’s how that happened (laughs).
What songs did you enjoy playing the most? That Cro-Mags cover you guys played totally blew my mind.
(laughs) Well, so I was like, “Yeah, let’s do it. But who’s going to drum?” Because it all depends on the drummer—like, if we don’t have a good drummer, then we can’t even pull those songs off. They [Peter and Bryan of The Bouncing Souls] have this friend, Doug, who I sort of knew, but didn’t really know. The only catch was that he was going to come in the night before the show. So we ran through the set twice, and just went for it.
Those were like… probably some of my favorite songs ever. They were all so super fun to do. I had so much fun, holy moly (laughs). It was intimidating, and I didn’t hit it all like I wanted to, but it was probably one of the funnest things I’ve ever done.
Very nice. Your latest project, Mity Lion, also played their debut show in Asbury Park recently. Since releasing Nite Flite through Don Giovanni Records back in 2015, did you ever anticipate for Mity Lion to play shows? Or is this a new idea you’re currently trying out?
No, I always wanted to play shows with it. I wrote the record in my house by myself. I just wanted to do that, and I sort of had in mind who was going to be in the band and who I wanted to be in the band, and thankfully, they all agreed. So now we’ve been rehearsing, and we finally had our first show. It’s something that I am totally into—I’m psyched, and I want to play as much as possible. We’re playing in August in Asbury Park, so I am trying to play some shows for sure.
Awesome. Circling back to Punk Rock Bowling, is there anyone in particular that you’re looking forward to see or play with that weekend?
I am, for sure, the most excited about The Buzzcocks. That for me was maybe the third or fourth punk band that I ever got into or heard. So I am beyond excited to be able to stand on the stage and watch them play. That’s the main reason for doing this whole thing. Them and The Specials I am really psyched to see, and then there’s a lot of bands that I am definitely going to check out. But I think Buzzcocks and The Specials are “my main thing.”
Considering that you and the other members of Lifetime have many commitments both musical and personal, is Punk Rock Bowling one of the few appearances that the band has lined up as of now?
Well… we get offers all of the time, and we try to do things, and sometimes, we just can’t. I think right now, people are kind of psyched to play and maybe have some time, so we’ve been trying to put some things together. We’ve also been talking about doing a 7″, so we’ve been slowly working on that. I love Lifetime, you know? That’s my baby, and I’ll do it whenever and wherever for as long as possible (laughs).
Right on. Ari, thank you again for your time today. Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Umm… just get out to the show, and that’s it. And have a good summer (laughs).
Lifetime will be playing at this year’s Punk Rock Bowling on June 11 at the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park. The seminal New Jersey-based punk act is set to share the stage alongside NOFX, The Buzzcocks, Leftover Crack, Bigwig and more. For more information, go to punkrockbowling.com.