I arrived at Punk Rock Bowling’s festival grounds Sunday just in time for the first drums of Masked Intruders to slam. The emerging Madison, Wisconsin-based band is a ton of fun, with members wearing different “intruder” colors and snow masks, speaking in thick Chicago accents and singing tongue-in-cheek pop songs about armed robbery, burglary and assault. That shtick, combined with catchy ’50s-style melodies, sped up and backed by distorted guitars, has been a winning combination for Masked Intruders, who recently rereleased their eponymous debut on Fat Wreck Chords. The follow-up comes out Tuesday.
Next on the main stage was legendary Canadian skate-punk outfit SNFU, with frontman Mr. Chi Pig looking as if the band pulled a toothless bum off Fremont Street and asked him to rant into a mic for 40 minutes. In a rare live appearance, the band performed metal-infused speed-punk sprints like “Better than Eddie Vedder” and “Painful Reminder” and thanked PRB’s organizing Stern brothers for inviting them to play, as the sun inched behind the Downtown Grand.
Perennial attendees The Dwarves followed, bringing their famously offensive anthems to the stage. The now-Bay Area-based veterans leave nothing to the imagination, with guitarist He Who Shall Not Be Named performing practically nude. Often overshadowed by The Dwarves’ seemingly juvenile and crass antics are some truly brilliant pop songs, like “Everybody’s Girl”, “How It’s Done” and “There Better Be Women.” During fan favorite “I Will Deny,” singer Blag Dahlia gave an audience member at shot at lead vocals.
The only Brits booked on the main stage Sunday were glam-punk pioneers The Adicts, who always produce a spectacle, complete with costumes, makeup, glitter and gnarly guitar solos. Plus, you can play a great drinking game with all the stuff thrown into the crowd during an Adicts’ performance: an umbrella filled with confetti, a stuffed monkey, a giant blow-up rose, disco beach balls, enough streamers to black-out the Fremont Street Experience …
Next up: 1990s favorites Face to Face, who have come back full force after a multiyear hiatus, releasing two albums, an EP and a split (with Rise Against) since 2011. Their speedy, hook-loaded melodies helped inspire the pop-punk craze of the late ’90s and early 2000s, and they appropriately closed their set with “Disconnected,” a cut deserving of inclusion on any greatest punk hits compilation.
There’s no logo in punk as duplicated, reimagined or highly visible as the Descendents’ cartoon Milo. Versions of the caricatured frontman were everywhere—on patches, T-shirts, skateboards, tattoos and tote bags—as excitement for the infrequently performing headliners ran high as the headliners. And the proponents of perpetual adolescence delivered, opening with “Everything Sux” and then rattling off other classics like “When I Get Old,” “Nothing With You,” and “Suburban Home,” all examples of their reluctance to develop. Frontman Milo Aukerman’s voice strained as he shouted “I’m the One” and “Coffee Mug” to a hysterical crowd that soaking up every moment.
Heading to club shows, I first stopped at Beauty Bar to see local ruffians The People’s Whiskey. I noticed we were joined in the crowd by Blag Dahlia, there to see his Dwarves bandmate Chris Fields perform with The John Cougar Concentration Camp. Unfortunately, J.C.C.C. made it only most of the way through its opening song before a disagreement onstage led to a smashed drum set and an early conclusion. I caught a few songs from Denver-based Reno Divorce—Southern-infused rockabilly jams, like a sped up Social Distortion—before heading to Backstage Bar & Billiards for a show with unannounced special guests.
At Triple B, elbow room and breathing space were at a premium as the stagehand cut the ties and revealed … Cock Sparrer’s banner. Saturday’s main-stage headliners were now performing to a tiny audience, a rare opportunity to see the band in an intimate setting. “Last night we played the festival stage, and that was great, but this is what Cock Sparrer is all about,” frontman Colin McFaull announced. “This is all we ever wanted.” The set was mostly a re-shuffling of the previous night’s song order, but it was a great way to end another PRB leg nonetheless.