As always, Punk Rock Bowling came into Las Vegas with a roar and left with… well, a somewhat quieter roar. For five days, Mohawks and denim vests dominated Downtown, often with a soundtrack blasting from the Downtown Events Center, PRB’s new home.
The weekend kicked off with a Thursday night club gig by the O.G.’s of garage rock, the Sonics, who threw down a solid, if late, set and got fine support from Angelo Moore’s danceable Dr. Madd Vibe combo and V-8 powered punk from Throw Rag. Friday night had a full round of club gigs, with most of the cool kids (including Jello Biafra) checking out a rare reunion from Television.
Saturday was the first day of the festival proper and it belonged to headliner Iggy Pop, without whom, one could argue, none of these bands would even be here. The Interrupters dished out ska-punk, while Me First and the Gimme Gimmes pulled out the costumes and the covers for a rousing show that included a thrash cover of “Jolene.”
Then, of course, it was time for the godfather of punk, the dirty uncle of rock n’ roll and Iggy Pop gave his usual 200%, leaping around (and off) the stage like a man half his age. People were moshing and frugging to hits like “Lust for Life” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”
Sunday brought out Bad Religion but, before they took the stage, there was the ceremonial smashing of a Donald Trump statue by festival leader Fat Mike, which brought as much cheering as any encore. Saturday night’s club show standout was the return of ace ska-soul outfit Hepcat, who exist at the corner where the Specials meet Sam & Dave and A Tribe Called Quest. There was a lot of dancing feet at the sold-out show and special shout-out to the guy who made repeated full-circuit skank runs throughout the property for hours.
Asses were dragging by Monday, but the Adicts got the energy level up. Even after four decades in the biz, they’re still slinging the showmanship, be it mirror-ball jackets, confetti cannons or handing off a Union Jack for the littlest punk in the audience to wave. Cock Sparrer were the other 40+ year veterans, banging through a catchy set of punk classics. Even as the crowd dragged themselves for the exits, they were already talking about next year. Las Vegas may not have many traditions, but Punk Rock Bowling has definitely become one.