Camera-in-hand, I find myself perched overlooking a sea of colorful, beer-infused tattooed, dreadlocked punk rockers roused by a pink mohawked sh*t-disturber with an infectious grin. A T-rex makes his way through the crowd, headed for the circle pit, fist-pumping those tiny arms as he goes. The energy is palpable and the brew is flowing… I must be at Punk In Drublic Music Festival.
This eccentrically excellent event is the brainchild of a man known for an entirely unorthodox and long-standing devotion to both punk rock and beer. We first meet NOFX’s Fat Mike as he barrels through security on a B-Cycle with zero credentials (and possibly a half-dozen brews under his belt) alarming the already startled security crew with a couple of elbows and a “hey don’t worry, I’m with the band!” Could we really mistake you, dude?
Actually, they may have..
As a veteran of the festival scene, this festival is what all festivals should be. Enthusiastic yet wholly respectful and surprisingly laid-back festival-goers, who will join you for a rousing circle-pit sesh, then toss you up to surf the crowd. Later, your fellow revelers share their shaded bench seat and their ice-cold water while you reminisce about the last set and make recommendations on the kickass loaded BBQ nachos they just tried. No ego, no attitude. I do love this crowd.
Our opening band, The Last Gang colorfully kick off the show. The epitome of punk rock chick, Brenna’s colorful energy is simply infectious and entrancing. I need a beer and a breather already. Thank goodness the brews are free to sample before 4 o’clock. And sample, we do.
The unstoppable Mad Caddies follow with a definitive and sheerly (as one crowd member eloquently put) “holy f*ck!ng sh*tb*lls perfect” set. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the Caddies live, yet it’s another Yass-worthy Excellence-a-thon of reggae-ic ska punk rock. Slick lyrics, sterling energy, resonant brass courtesy of Ed and Keith and flawless musicianship all around. Chuck is magnetically melt-worthy on the mic. These boys know just how to keep it tight while kicking it loose. I could theoretically go home happy at this point.
But no, The Interrupters blow on stage in delightfully coordinated ensembles and proceed to move us against our will. Aimee channels a 90’s Gwen-Stefani-esque vibe without losing her punk-rock grit. Her brothers bounce, leap and boogie infectiously and I secretly wonder how they’ve not spontaneously combusted in their suit & tie getup. Kudos to you, I’ll have the beer tent send you a refresher …or ten. The Interrupters are hitting Vans Warped Tour circuit this year and to be quite honest, they may be the sole reason I purchase tickets.
Bad Religion follows with a 25-song set in less than 90 minutes. I’m not quite sure how exactly these dudes remain standing after the effort. There’s a reason these rockers are still a mainstay in the punk rock world. The crowd doesn’t disagree; grizzled veteran fans with Bad Religion band tatts line the front row in energetic solidarity. This fanbase ain’t messing around, either. After the 25th song, I realize they’re simply here to show "them kids" what real punk rock is about. Don’t try to outdo Bad Religion …you’d probably die trying.
We wrap up the festivities with our colorful beloved NOFX. I wonder why I’m disappointed that Fat Mike chose to skip the climate-suitable dress this time. Maybe my unorthodox standards are too high. His pink mo’ and Jaws shirt are supplemented with a cheeky overdose of cuss words, references to inappropriate behavior and a fair few middle fingers. Meanwhile, Bassist Eric Melvin provides subject matter for possibly some of the best photos I’ve taken. When you encounter a grizzled punk rocker with turquoise and black dreads and a penchant for simply rocking the eff out, you’re bound to have an enjoyable time and end up with some decent snaps. Pair that with dudes who repeatedly mock themselves, their crowd, predecessors Bad Religion and flash a cheeky grin in between sipping what was probably straight vodka on a mic-stand mounted cup holder, we dig. And we haven’t even mentioned their music yet. Meh, we’ll *suffer* through…
It’s impossible to dislike these guys, this festival, the people and… dare I mention the fan-flippin-tabulous (and initially free) beer? Let’s have a word, Fat Mike; I’d like to give up my day job and become a professional Punk-In-Drublic-er, please.
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