It’s been six years since I’ve been to a show in the desert and more than eight since I’ve heard of one being successful—success being measured not in if, but when Johnny Law will break up the gathering of punks, arrest some of them and send the rest back to their homes in the ’burbs. And as the rotor blades of a police helicopter whir in the air overhead, I have a feeling this will be yet another failed desert show. But I’m in the minority; no one else seems worried. Then again, they’re punks and used to police harassment.
It all starts with my scaling a 200-foot hillside to some graffiti-plastered caves in the city’s southwest mountains. A flier advertised a show here, but, apart from a few teenagers holding an impromptu mock AirSoft BB battle nearby, there’s no one around.
The ground is wet and gross from the day’s rain, and the caves—a maze of holes that reek of sulfur, pock-marked by white splats of bat guano and charred black by campfire soot—look like a great place to hide from the law, dump a body or, yes, stage a punk rock show.
“We’ll play anywhere,” In//Terror vocalist Josh Herrera says as he checks the back of guitarist Chivo Juarez’s truck for their gear. The band, annoyed with the city’s lack of dirty and extreme crust-friendly locales (random houses aside), have decided to test the caves with a handful of other Vegas punk outfits.
“There’s tons of kids who want to go to shows, but Vegas just sucks,” Herrera says. “We hope to be able to do something like this every six months.”
As the clouds break, crews of patched-out punk-rock kids begin to emerge, dogs and 40-ounce malt liquor “spacebags” (liberated boxed wine bags) in tow, determined to see a show.
The helicopter retreats, drawing cheers from the more-than-40-person crowd, as local crust band Noise Inflicts Pain kicks off its punk assault. A mosh pit forms. A kid flies into a large stone on the ground, narrowly escaping a massive head injury. He dusts off and gets back in the pit, avoiding the rusty bullet casings and shards of glass awaiting the next victim. It’s raw, it’s dangerous, and it’s absolutely punk as f--k.