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Harry Jerkface – My Punk Rock Bowling – Las Vegas, NV – May 26 and 27, 2012

May 27, 2012

Harry Jerkface and Skippy SimonWell, it's that time of year again…  Las Vegas.  Where thousands of punks descend upon Sin City for a weekend of Bowling, partying and Punk Rock debauchery. This year I decided to fall back on my usual plan of saving money and getting into as much trouble as my little heart could stand. 

We left late on Friday, hoping to avoid some of the traffic; my carpool also had some unavoidable work responsibilities.  Once on the road, it was a nonstop playlist of party jams including but not limited to our classic and legendary heading to Vegas tune, "Viva Las Vegas," as performed by the Dead Kennedys. I mean, what Punk rock trip to LV is complete without that?  I'd feel empty without it.  We stopped once in Bat Country, to get some gas on the way up.  As we entered the final stretch toward the city, we were hit with a sense of excitement. What adventures would the weekend hold in store for us? 

We arrived sometime after 1am in downtown Las Vegas, checked into our hotel and immediately started drinking. We'd brought several gallons of whiskey, a large jug of gin and plenty of things to mix them with.  After a few hotel room cocktails, we decided to hit the bar.  Having missed all the Friday night kickoff shows, we were ready to have a kickass time. We headed over to the Golden Nugget Hotel, where we proceeded to raise hell until the wee hours of the morning.  I ran into so many friends that I hadn't seen in at least a year.  We laughed and chatted and drank until we couldn't drink anymore. The night was marred by some shitty dudes who were looking for a fight.  They instigated one, and were promptly ejected.  No one needs that!  Minutes later, the bar was back to its joyous self and we spent the rest of the night running around smiling, laughing and getting drunk.  We crawled our way back to the hotel room at 8am and promptly passed out.  There was an awful lot of bowling to do the next day, after all.



My alarm started screaming at me at 10:35 in the morning, I smashed the snooze button a couple of times, rolled outta bed, threw some pants on, grabbed myself an peanut butter sandwich and an apple and made my way over to the Golden Nugget to meet up with my team and head on over to Sam's Town.  We were bowling in the first round and had to be there by noon, and barely made it there by the skin of our teeth.  After a few warm-up throws, we were ready to get down to business.  The team next to us were really good.  I was (un)fortunately still quite drunk from the night before and was tentatively gonna take a break on the drinking for the afternoon…  until the first bucket of beer showed up on our lane. 

Sam's Town Bowling

I don't really remember too much more of our bowling, except for the fact that I did better than everyone on my team and I had way too many drinks.  After hucking rocks for the better part of 2 hours, we finally got through our 3rd game, and I was let loose to wander around Sam's Town and get into a bit of trouble.  We did some loose interviews on camera for Big Wheel TV and I ended up walking away from  there with a free ham sandwich, fries, 9 beers and a plate of nachos.


I got to see a ton of friends from all over the world, and we shared in beers and snacks and had a really cool time.  I watched a ton of teams doing their very best to score points with style, grace and attitude.  From sailors to wolves to straight up bowlers, everyone had their unique take on team spirit and uniforms. 

Sam's Town

I had asked a few people to look for me before leaving because I hadn't secured a ride back over to downtown, but with my lack of sleep and my inebriated state of mind, I had missed all my opportunities to hop in someones car.  I'm not afraid of public transportation, in fact, I often prefer it when I'm in a strange city.  It offers a unique perspective on the way that a town works, plus it has the added bonus of being affordable.  With that in mind, I made my way over to the bus stop and waited for one to come by bearing the name of downtown Las Vegas on its marquee.  Two dollars and 40 minutes later, I had arrived exactly where I needed to be.  I had planned on taking a nap before heading down to the music festival in time to catch one of my all time favorite bands, The Briefs, who have reunited after a 5 year hiatus. Now, there were a lot of good bands on the bill, but they were the band that I had gone to see, and I wasn't missing that set for anything in the world.  It was nearing 5 pm at that point and I made the executive decision to head straight to the festival.  No shower, no nap.  I didn't have a map or a guidebook or anything, so I had assumed that the festival would be located in the same area as it had been the year before.  I'm glad that I allotted the extra time, because I had made the wrong assumption.  The festival was located a few short blocks away and I only had to follow the echos of bass drums ringing off of casinos to find it.  I caught the tail end of Far From Finished as I stood in line to be patted down.  I was a little bummed about it, cause I hadn't seen them in a long time, and my old roommate Pesky is the bass player for them.  I love that dude.   The line to get into the fest at that point was awfully smooth, and I was let in with no problems; at a sharp contrast to the year before where I was forced to remove my studded belts and leave them behind to be stolen.  Once inside, I wandered the fest grounds, looking for friends and free drinks.  The booze and beers inside were reasonably priced, however the lines were extremely long.  I spent over 45 minutes in line waiting for drinks.  The Real McKenzies played, and people went pretty ape for them.  Dressed in kilts with bagpipes and welcoming attitudes, they blasted though a fun singalong set replete with high kicks and flashes of dongs.  You could see half the crowd cringe, as the other half cheered every time a leg lifted past knee level.  As they wrapped up their set, I had time for one last drink while my buddy Colin grabbed me another 2 cherry lemonade drinks.  I shoved my way up front; there way no way I was missing one second of this Briefs set. 



The Briefs took the stage and proceeded to blast their way through a fun filled set chock full of hits.  I had seen them maybe 4 times before that and was instantly transported back in time to a place where everything was magical, and nothing was wrong in the world.  From songs about getting crabs to shoplifting at Macy's, their set was everything I could have hoped for and more.  Chris Brief tore up his drum kit while singing his heart out.  They never skipped a beat.  With each member of the band taking their turn on lead vocals, we really got the full Briefs experience.  Everyone around me was pogoing and partying and screaming along to all the words of every song.  I couldn't help but notice that Lance Romance looked uncannily like Will Ferrell with a bass guitar.  It made me giggle uncontrollably to myself for the rest of the weekend.  Steve E. Nix was on point as his usual cool self, with shredding licks and high kicks.  The other dude was cool too.  Whatever.  I was so tired at that point, having gotten less than 4 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours, and needed to retreat to my hotel room for a nap.  If there was any chance that I was going to make it through the night, I had to take off.  So I did, missing sets by the English Beat, the Adicts and NOFX.  I wasn't terribly bummed out, having seen all of those bands before and NOFX in the past 3 months.  "Sleep it Is," I said to myself. 



After a refreshing nap, I got myself together and headed down to catch the Bombpops at the Country Saloon.  Good friends of mine; I was excited to see them take the stage amidst some of their most favorite bands.  The line was relatively short when I arrived, as so many people attending were still making their way over from the NOFX show at the main festival stage.  After breezing my way through the front door, I hurried up front.  They were at least 3 songs into their set.  I could tell that they were really excited to be playing, as I made eye contact with each of the players and we winked and nodded and made little inside jokes.  Neil's hops were on point and Josh looked like a madman behind that kit.  I decided to myself that he was channeling Animal from the Muppets and that I should probably throw something at him.   So, I tossed over some trash from my pockets.  It missed and I don't think he noticed.  Jen and Poli played through their parts impeccably and everyone in the crowd seemed to really dig it.  I heard quite a few people remaking on how impressed they were with the band, and everyone walked away satisfied, ready for Dead To Me to do their thing. 



At that point I decided to take off and make my way down to the Beauty Bar to catch the Matt Skiba and Friends set.  I love Alkaline Trio, and had some high hopes for who the special guests could be.  There were rumors flying around for everyone from Tegan to the Sekrets, and I was pretty excited to see what it was gonna be.  The place was fairly empty when I got there, and Joey Balls was setting up to play through a few tunes before too long.  Now I love Joey, and he's a funny dude, so once he broke into an R. Kelly jam, I knew it was gonna be a good night. 

He played through a bunch of covers and some Old Man Markley songs.  It started dragging after a while and the crowd was getting restless…  and then one of the Sterns brought up the list of teams that made it into the 2nd round of bowling and asked Joey to announce it.  He did.  In song.  It was brutal.  So.  After what seemed like FOREVER, he got through all 60 team names.  He may have played another song or two, but at that point I really wasn't paying attention to the things that were happening on the stage.  I was back to beer. 

Whilst drinking and schmoozing we started speculating on possibilities.   Things started flying around on the twitter, and we had a really good idea of what we were in store for.  Laura Jane Grace.  Ever since that Rolling Stone article came out, I was super curious as to what the new Against Me!  would be like.  Would the songs go through drastic changes because the singer had?  To be honest, I had lost all interest in that band years ago and was curious as to what they would be like in the year 2012.  They took a really long time getting their shit together.  The crowd started grumbling and getting a little rowdy when the dude from Riverboat Gamblers took the stage.  He launched into this long winded story about blowing a kiss to Bruce Springsteen who told him that he was a bad ass.  Good for him, but that was kinda a jackoff story with no relevance, to be telling.  No one cared. 

They were hungry for music and everyone wanted music now.  He introduced Laura Jane Grace as Laura Grace Gable and she grabbed up her guitar and belted through the best Against Me! set I'd seen in 8 years.  The crowd exploded with cheers and shouts as everyone sang their hearts out to every word. 

That set was so heartfelt and honest and oh so good.  It was loaded with all my favorite singalong songs from, "Baby I'm An Anarchist" to "We Did It All For Don" to "Reinventing Axl Rose."  Top to bottom.  Amazing choices.  I couldn't have asked for a better set.  She played a couple new songs, including the one that's been making it's way around the internet, "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" and "Black Me Out." 

We got sweaty and close and awesome all over that club.  In the middle of her set you could see police lights in the alley behind the fence, casting an ominous glow over the whole thing.  Which launched her right into "Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious."  After she left the stage, we were all pretty spent.  However, we were there to see some Skiba.   A few more beers later (and some water for a friend who needed to hydrate) Matt grabbed up his guitar and launched into a request only set which included "Snake Oil Tanker", "Blue In The Face" and many others.  There were a couple times where he backed up off the mic and let the crowd sing along, but it just didn't have the immediacy of Laura Jane Grace's set. 

Some of the magic was gone, and it just couldn't be recaptured.  It's not to say that it was a bad set, it certainly wasn't the worst Matt Skiba set I've ever seen; but it seemed a pale shadow of what came before it.  So I drank more and we stuck it out until the end, where people called for an encore, but Matt was like, "No.  I'm really done."  So we closed our tabs and dispersed, making our way back toward our hotels where we decided a short nap was in order.

After a couple of hours, I was refreshed enough to make my way back to the bar, although the harsh desert air had resulted in a massive nosebleed.  So I donned a suit, a tie and a sport coat, made myself a couple of gin and tonics and went out for some drinks at the Golden Nugget.  The bar was fun, and it was a good way to catch up with people I hadn't seen at shows throughout the weekend, but by 5am, I needed to call it a night.  Once again, back to the room for some sleep. 


We didn't make it into the second round of bowling, so I spent my morning sleeping in.  I rallied around noonish to meet up with Bad Cop / Bad Cop for an all you can eat/drink mimosa brunch over at the Golden Nugget.  That turned out to be a really good decision on my part.  Drink after drink after drink.  Infinite champagne.  And I was drunk again.  After about 14 or so mimosas I stumbled back to the room to get ready for the pool party with the Real McKenzies over at the Gold Spike, but instead passed out and slept right through it.  I woke up around 5 and got myself ready to go see Rancid.  You guys, I really legitimately still love Rancid.  This is their 20th year as a band and they continue to be the most fun and the best time.

It was most definitely time to party.  We shuffled down to the festival area and stood in line to get in.  The line was definitely longer than the one I had stood in the night before, but it moved and before too long, I was back inside the green fence.  I totally blew it though.  I slept right through the Beltones set.  FML.  When we arrived, my buddies in Old Man Markley were chugging along onstage; I caught maybe 3 songs once inside.  At least I could hear them from the line.  I grabbed my drinks wristbands and prepared for a long wait in line for beers.  Surprisingly, they took note of the insane lines the day before and doubled the staff working in the booze tents.  It made me happy.  The Street Dogs played and I kinda sat around drinking.


Having seen them many times over the past few years, I didn't mind that they were playing, but was not particularly excited about it either.  They played a lot of newer songs that I didn't really recognize, and I watched without much enthusiasm.  And then it was Hepcat time.  I love Hepcat a lot.  They were the 2nd big show I had ever gone to in my life, growing up in Hawaii, and they hold a special place in my heart.  They played so good.  Running through songs from the entirety of their catalog, we were treated to tunes such as "I Can't Wait" and "Dance Wid' Me."  Their sweet soulful ska sounds were just the right thing to chill me out in the middle of this party weekend.  Everyone around me was dancing their little hearts out and laughing and smiling and having the best time.  I was curious as to who would be handling bass duties for them, since their bass player passed away a few years back, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was the dude from Chris Murray's band.  That guy is a bass line champion.

I skipped out on watching any of the Cockney Rejects set in order to help take care of a few drunk friends who were pretty wasted at that point.  I spent their whole set in lines for food and water and coffee and the restroom, making sure everyone I was with was sober enough to hang through the hour + Rancid set we were about to experience.  After chowing down and watering up, we shoved our way up toward the front as the sound crew finished up their last minute preparations.  The strains of Tim's guitar filled the air and the crowd roared as they took the stage.  They kicked off with "Radio."  That shit is my shit. 

Running through a large portion of their catalog, relying heavily on their hits from "…And Out Come The Wolves," Rancid showed Las Vegas that they've still got it after all these years.  Tim's signature spins were ever-present throughout their hour long set.  I mean, what more can I say about it? It's RANCID.  Skinhead Rob came out for his rap on "Red Hot Moon," highly entertaining to say the least.  Lars' guitars were on point; he was cracking jokes about being the "new guy," 18 years later. Tim told stories about Operation Ivy playing in the desert.  Mat snuffled and growled like a bear.  It was perfect!  They even played "I Wanna Riot," which I hadn't seen live before.  That set was so much fun.  They came back on stage after they finished to jam out a couple more tunes, ending with "Ruby Soho."  I was completely and utterly spent after that.  Covered in dirt and mud and ready for a shower, we left the festival all smiles.


It was time to figure out what in the world I was doing with myself.  I dreaded the thought of one more show; I just couldn't do it.  It was back to the hotel for a shower and a nap.  After some nice air conditioning chillout time, we made out way back down to the Golden Nugget.  Jeff and I had arranged to show some friends the wonderful and exciting game of craps.  Which, by the way, is my most favorite gambling game in all of Las Vegas.  We sat there at the table for a good hour winning and losing, until all the chips were gone. 

It was then time to lick our wounds and have a few more drinks before making our way to the Dunkin' Donuts for 7am bagels.  We had to check out of our hotel in a few short hours, as no one in our car was staying through Monday's festivities.  After another catnap, we packed our things up and wound our way through the heavy traffic back toward the city of Los Angeles, another Punk Rock Bowling under our belts and the city lights reflecting in the mirrors behind us. 

 

-Harry Jerkface-

Big Wheel Contributor

     

 



 


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