“This music ain’t your fuckin’ industry!”, screams Fat Mike of NOFX as they close out the Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival at Asbury Park’s Stone Pony. The lyrics to “It’s My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite” ring throughout the crowd as bodies bounce off of one another. Their set is only about halfway finished but it was at this exact moment that I realized how great of a weekend it had been. Despite a few minor setbacks, the weekend went exactly as planned, and it was filled with good tunes and great people.
The Punk Rock Bowling and Music festival began in 1999. The festival was put together by the Stern brothers from LA punk band Youth Brigade. It’s a three day music festival and bowling tournament that encompasses all things “punk rock”. Along with the main festivities there are pool parties, poker tournaments, afterhours club shows, and more. All of this takes place within walking distance of one another. If that isn’t enough, in more recent years the festival has toured and takes place in three different locations: Las Vegas, Denver, and Asbury Park; each location with their own unique lineup. I had the honor and privilege of checking out the Asbury Park show. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Bowling Tournament but from those I spoke to at the festival, it was an unforgettable time. I will definitely have to remedy this next year! As for now, join me as I walk through my time at the Asbury Park Stone Pony Summerstage for Punk Rock Bowling (Jersey Edition)!
My fiancée and I arrive in Asbury Park around 10:30 AM, doors aren’t until 2 but we wanted to explore a bit as it was our first time in the area. I must say, if you’ve never been it’s definitely worth the trip. The boardwalk is full of unique shops, bars, and even a small waterpark for the kids. What did trip me out is that it costs $8 to go onto the beach. You have to pay to go onto the beach? Growing up near multiple beaches in Maryland and Delaware I just wasn’t used to this situation. That being said, if you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. Now, onto the show!
While the doors supposedly opened at 2 there was a line full of guest list folks (myself included) that were being refused entry. Nobody showed up to check us in until 2:30, at this point the first band, The Vansaders, have already started (SORRY GUYS!). Everyone with a photo pass is getting checked in, however, all of our “plus ones” are being told to wait. Long story short, we didn’t get into the venue until about 3:20.
By the time we were let into the venue we were well into band number 2, The Ravagers, set. These Baltimore natives serve up a brand of tunes that I can only describe as “the Misfits if they kept making phenomenal punk rock and loved Troma films”. I believe I saw the guys describe it as “cemetery punk” at one point and I fuckin’ love it! This was my first time hearing them but I can’t wait to see where they go from here. They have two albums out right now that are available here: https://ravagers.bandcamp.com/ . Being involved with the horror community like I am and can see that there is a definite audience for these guys. I pray that they reach that audience soon because I can’t wait to see what the future holds. If you’re in the Baltimore area, they have a show at the Metro Gallery on September 16th.
Here was my most anticipated moment of the trip, finally getting a chance to see Crazy & The Brains live. If you haven’t heard these guys, go and seek them out now! Their catchy punk with a xylophone, which they’ve deemed as “Party Punk” is extremely addicting and you’ll be forever changed when you put them on. Vocalist, Chris Urban has an energy that is indescribable. This isn’t the angry punk band out to prove a point, this is an upbeat, dare I say, happy punk band ready to party and dance their assess off. They want to have a good time and they want you to have a good time. Support these guys and you won’t regret it! I got a chance to talk to both Urban and ,xylophone player Jeffrey Rubin after their set. It was loud so I didn’t get a chance to chat for long but they were the coolest dudes I’ve ever met. They love the scene and love the vibes they’re bringing into it. Hoping they play some more shows locally because driving out to see the Jersey natives is gonna cost a lot of gas money…but totally worth it. Check these guys out!
The next band up was New York’s own, The Templars. Honestly, I know very little about the Templars except that they are a Long Island “Oi!” band that is beloved by the community. I will say, I got introduced to them real quick! For the untrained ear, The Templars sound like they’re right out of the British Punk scene. First sound that came to mind, and it’s been noted by many others, is Cock Sparrer. It may have been my first time seeing them but it definitely won’t be my last.
Next up on the bill was PUP, a Toronto based “punk” band. I’m going to be upfront and honest, PUP was not my thing. Going into the show I grouped PUP into the hipster pseudopunk acts that surround the Vans Warped Tour stages in modern day. After the show…they definitely gained my respect. While the tunes may not be my thing, I respect their ability to put on a kickass show and lead the crowd in one of the largest singalongs of the day. Let’s be honest, me not leaving as a fan is not effecting this bands humongous fan base. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll put on a PUP record and smack myself in the face for being so dumb. Hey…I may just be being stubborn. You’d never know if I was listening to “The Dream is Over”, an incredible album by the band, right this very moment. You’ll never know!
The award for “band that got me to stash my camera and hop in the pit” goes to The Explosion. Holy hell did these guys bring back memories. I remember jamming out to “Black Tape”, the band’s second full length, in the backseat of my parent’s car while on the way to the beach. So you know damn well that as soon as “Here I Am” kicked on my ass was in the crowd! Originally hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, I credit these guys for being part of the “punk boom” in the late 90’s/early 00’s. At the time, due to the popularity of bands like Green Day and Blink, record companies were scooping up as many punk bands as they could find. Sadly the band broke up in 2007 but have been performing various reunion shows in recent years. Hopefully the love they received at this show will kick start them into making some new tunes!
Now here’s a band I haven’t heard from in awhile, Dillinger Four. It’s tough to discuss Dillinger Four because D4 doesn’t even care about D4. I mean that in the best way possible. These four gentlemen, from Minnesota, haven’t put out an album in almost a decade and turn down countless tours and festivals. It’s actually a miraculous thing that they performed…but damn was I psyched! These are four regular dudes, with regular day jobs, hopping on stage and playing phenomenal tunes that influenced an entire generation of punk kids. D4 never ceases to amaze me live, even if we’ve all given up hope for a new album.
Now, if you would’ve told me a few years ago that I would be seeing legendary funk/soul artist Charles Bradley in Asbury Park at a punk festival I would’ve laughed you out of the building, but damn was it pulled off with excellent execution. The best set of the entire weekend goes to Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires. This was not just a concert, but an experience. Throughout the entire set you could feel each and every emotion shared on stage. The pain Bradley feels inside and the joy felt when it was discovered he was cancer free, this was a night to be remembered. Charles Bradley is a legend, there’s nothing else to say. When you’re finished reading this, go find out where he’ll be next and go there. Immediately.
Closing out Day 1 was legendary ska band, The Specials. Listen, it’ll get boring going through 4 decades of phenomenal ska music, so I’m going to let you do your own research when it comes to The Specials. Just know, that you’ve heard them before and they’re fantastic! Even if you don’t think you’ve heard them before, you have. If you have any interest in current forms of ska, and the many offshoots, then you have The Specials to thank as they were a part of the “original” 2 tone, ska revival. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of The Specials and ska in general, but this was probably my biggest disappointment of the weekend. The band was on point. Lynval Golding and Horace Panter, two of the three original members, were killing it on stage; putting on a great show. Then there’s Terry Hall. I know Hall is a legend and has his own share of personal demons, but my integrity requires me to be honest with you all. He really seemed disinterested in being there, barely looking up from the microphone. As someone who works in a classroom I understand that you have no idea what is happening in someone else’s life at that point. He could’ve just been having an off day, but it was definitely noticeable on stage. That being said, as much as I love the song, I might get annoyed playing “Ghost Town” over a million times as well.
Day 1 had a few setbacks, especially in the beginning with the delays in getting in. My only hope was that these issues would be remedied for the following day and all would be well.
My prayers were answered and we were let into the venue by 2:15. This gave us enough time to set up shop, grab some food, and prepare for our second long day of tunes that I love and my fiancée doesn’t (teeheehee).
The day started off with a bang, figuratively and literally. The first band up was Asbury Park’s own Hot Blood. Apparently, a week or so before the show, they’re lead singer fell off of a roof. Whether or not he’s a roofer, I don’t know. That being said, the guys pulled through and put on a hell of a show. Friend, Devin Walby covered vocals for the set. Hot Blood was definitely one of the heavier bands to play the weekend; almost breaking into “core” ground. This definitely started the day off right!
Next up was a band I’m not extremely familiar with, Bigwig. Bigwig, hailing from New Jersey, has been involved with the scene since 1995. Their brand of hardcore punk mixes melodic riffs with politics in a hard hitting show that needs to be seen. Vocalist, and last original member, Tom Petta led the band through their numerous hits throughout their decade worth of discography. While the band hasn’t released an album since 2006 they’ve toured nonstop in recent years. They’re playing multiple festival shows this summer and fall including notable punk festival, FEST 16. Be sure to check these guys out when you get a chance, they won me over instantly.
The third band up on stage for Day 2 was Philadelphia’s Posers. Whew, what can I say about these guys? Fast paced, in your face, lively punk rock straight out of the east coast. Led by front woman, Jade Anna, Posers has the ability to grab the attention of even the most distracted concert goer. All eyes were on the stage as the band tore through a plethora of angry, yet melodic tunes. If stage presence means anything, and it does in this scene, then these guys win out for the day. You could feel the raw emotion as it filled the festival grounds. They weren’t afraid to put it in your face either. Case in point being when Jade comes down from the stage to let out every bit she had on the audience. Eventually “collapsing” from emotional exhaustion. These guys put on a hell of a show and I can’t wait to see them again. Cannot recommend their tunes enough!
Oh what’s that I hear? Is that the sound of a horn section?! Aww yeah! The next band up on the bill is The New Darkbuster. Don’t be mistaken, this is still the Lenny Lashley led “Darkbuster” but around the summer of 2015 the group returned with a retooled lineup and, dare I say, a tighter live show. I’m all for “damn the man” political punk rock but I’m a sucker for feel good, party punk, and you’ve won me over even more with the inclusion of a bit of ska/ska punk. From reading that you can see that I’ve always been a fan of Darkbuster and this new lineup is just as incredible. Lashley hasn’t lost a step, and how could he with his inclusion in the Mike McColgan led “Street Dogs”. The only thing I can say after their performance is…let’s get a new album boys!
The horn section remains as we move into our next act, DC’s legendary ska band, The Pietasters. Now, if you happened to read my Reel Big Fish “Turn the Radio Off” album show review then you would know that I am a huge fan of these guys; I was one of the many in the crowd. While The Pietasters may have been the least “punk” act on the bill they were sure to rock the house. Now, when you go to a Pietasters show you know what you’re getting: groovy horns, Stephen Jackson’s sweet, sultry vocals, and songs about love, dancing, and…BEER! There’s honestly not much to be said about the Pietasters because their show speaks for itself. If these guys are in your area, and they play the east coast quite a bit, get your ass out there and see them!
How do you follow The Pietasters? Well, with Leftover Crack of course! If you’ve never listened to Leftover Crack then you need to reevaluate your life. While the controversial lyrics may not be your style, the music is most definitely enticing. I’ve never heard a band perfectly blend ska, punk, and death/black metal so seamlessly. Assisted by Kate Coysh, vocalist Scott Sturgeon (Stza) cackles his way through the bands extensive library of political driven anthems. I use cackling in the best way possible, they destroyed! I considered myself a casual listener of LoC but after seeing them I completely changed that. The Explosion put me in the pit on Day 1, and LoC put me in the pit on Day 2. “Nazi White Trash”, my personal favorite, had me skanking my way round the pit, hitting everyone in sight. Friendly hitting, of course. Leftover Crack isn’t for everyone, but everyone needs to experience their sounds at least once. Do it!
And now, the return of “Jersey’s Best Dancers”, Lifetime. Listen, Lifetime’s third album became the soundtrack of my life in the early 2000’s and you can imagine my excitement when I found that the Jersey boys would be playing PRB. Might I say that they did not disappoint. This was probably the most lively I had seen the crowd to this point. The band kicked off with the intro track to the aforementioned album, “Turnpike Gates”, and we were off to the races. This was most definitely the highlight of everyone’s weekend. As of right now there is no sign of a new Lifetime album but we can only dream, right?
The next band up was honestly the surprise of the weekend. While Charles Bradley was a strange booking decision turned masterpiece, the Buzzcocks had a very large influence on many of the bands on stage. That being said, I wasn’t quite sure of the response they would receive from the crowd. While this may seem a bit judgmental, the crowd seemed a bit too “hardcore” to appreciate one of the many originators of the genre. The Buzzcocks have been kicking ass in the British punk rock scene since 1976. With 9 albums under their belt, the latest coming in 2014, these guys haven’t skipped a beat. I felt as if I was taken back to the 70’s punk era as Pete Shelley led the crowd through four decades of punk greatness. That’s just what this was, a fantastic show put on by punk royalty. So much so that the legends went overtime, causing our headliners to come out late.
NOFX came onto the stage about 15 minutes after their set was to begin. Now, being a youngin’, this is the band that got me into punk rock. If it wasn’t for NOFX I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. Not sure if that’s saying much, but I digress. As soon as the band came out, to the “Time Warp” I might add, I knew we were in for a night of glorious debauchery. I wouldn’t have chosen a better three songs to be front and center for either. The band launched into “72 Hookers”, their commentary on suicidal bombers. Then they go right into “Murder the Government”, a song they would dedicate to our current political system. Finally, I finished my picture taken while the group launched into “Six Years on Dope”, the intro track for their newest album. Overall the set was fantastic, but it was cut almost 15 minutes short. I understand that they weren’t able to come on until late but to cut the set of the headliner was ridiculous. After viewing the setlist, about 4 songs were cut in total, including fan favorite “Separate the Church and Skate”. They put on a great show, but it was a bit disappointing to see the moment that we were all waiting for, abruptly end. There wasn’t an encore or anything. The band ended and presumably left the area. I don’t blame them, they’ve been doing this enough years to do that but it was a bit disheartening.
Despite a few setbacks on Day 1, and a shortened headlining set, this weekend was a fantastic time. I would definitely recommend the Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival to all lovers of punk rock music and the culture in general. Next year I hope to generate a team early enough to join in on the bowling tournament. Not only am I a lover of music, but I’m also a pretty decent bowler. Hopefully the festival continues with three separate dates next year as the east coast has very little in terms of “punk rock music”. I’ll definitely make my way to the shows for years to come.
The Phenomenal Dylan Lyles is an obsessive fan of cinema, pro wrestling, horror, vinyl, and comic books. Bursting from the womb in 1992, Dylan’s surrounded himself with all things geek culture. Earliest memories include Wrestlemania 11, ‘The Death of Superman,’ and Jason Voorhees emerging from the waters of Camp Crystal Lake. You may see him sharing his opinion on just about everything on the internet or maybe even working the crowds at pop culture events up and down the east coast. You love him and he loves you!