Is there a better way to spend Memorial Day weekend than getting poked in the eye by a loose Mohawk spear while crowd-surfing to the music of punk pioneers from the last 35 years? The thousands in attendance at this year’s sold-out Punk Rock Bowling Music Festival didn’t seem to think so. This wasn’t your dad’s rock ’n’ roll show … well, it could have been since ’70s-era UK punk band the Damned kicked off Friday night. Eerily sexy frontman Dave Vanian seemed to have emerged from his casket to perform hits from Machine Gun Etiquette. His velvety vocals enveloped the crowd, demonstrating extreme control and magnetic singing ability.
Devo followed, giving a startlingly audacious and mesmerizing performance involving a kitschy light show and several costume changes, one being into bright orange jumpsuits meant to personify futuristic garbage men.
Playing the last show of their North American tour, highly anticipated Norwegian punk all-stars Turbonegro hit the stage in signature sailor attire on Sunday night. They performed classics “Wasted Again” and “I Don’t Care.” Following them was one of the best-selling commercial punk acts of all time, Bad Religion. They played for 90 minutes, going straight into the encore instead of executing the routine stage-off, stage-on again teaser.
To end the three days of raw, wretched and hellish mayhem was none other than Flag, or rather the remaining members of underground icons Black Flag. Keith Morris’ throbbing voice punctuated the air with hits such as “Six Pack” and, most notably, “Gimme Gimme Gimme.” Overall, it was an exhaustive weekend filled with all the vulgarity but maybe lacking some of the attitude a proper punk festival should contain. But who gives a shit about being proper anyway? ★★★★☆