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Bolstered by booze, Extreme Thing grows up, but stays young at heart

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Fred Morledge
Jason Bracelin

Efrem Schulz needed a beer. “We sure could use a bar right now,” the 41-year-old Death by Stereo singer pleaded, longing to replace the intoxicants fleeing from his pores as he performed atop asphalt so hot, it was as if the stuff had been freshly poured. “You get here, you do drugs all night, then you have to play really early in the day.”

On Saturday at Desert Breeze Park, Extreme Thing officially came of age, hangovers and all.

Death by Stereo at Extreme Thing 2016.

Death by Stereo at Extreme Thing 2016.

The annual all-day sports and music festival has evolved into Vegas’ biggest and best teen-friendly event since it debuted at its current home 15 years ago, a loud, vibrant mix of culture and commerce. This year, attendees could learn about the many nuances of zombie paintball, suck on hemp lollipops or score that elusive “Support Your Local White Boy” T-shirt.

After taking 2015 off due mostly to staffing issues, Extreme Thing’s welcome return came with some noticeable differences. For starters, the fest was slightly smaller in scope and attendance—it remained a sizable draw with thousands of sun-reddened fans ending the day with headliners Saosin, but wasn’t quite as packed as in some years past.

Extreme Thing 2016

Secondly, Budweiser! Yes, for the first time, alcohol was sold in beer gardens next to two of Extreme Thing’s five stages. This was a notable development for a couple of reasons.

On a practical level, a plastic bucket of piña coladas comes in mighty handy when you’re trying to make it through a set by pop-punk yawners The Maine. More significantly, the availability of adult beverages underscored the fact that a whole generation of Las Vegans has grown up with Extreme Thing—now, they’re of drinking age, and drink they did. Plenty of them came with their kids in tow, purple-haired moms flanked by dads in Bad Religion tees, while the interminable beer lines were full of 20-somethings reminiscing about Extreme Things of years past. (“Dude, remember when Escape the Fate was just a little band from Pahrump?”)

Speaking of which, Escape the Fate played Extreme Thing for the first time since 2010, the homecoming enhanced by a reunion with former bassist Max Green on a set-closing “This War Is Ours.”

Punk and its various offshoots remained the core of the festival, from aforementioned old-schoolers Death by Stereo, who ripped through a savage take on Slayer’s “Raining Blood,” to a stellar pop-punk pep talk from Bayside. Brittle-hearted emo standouts The Story So Far turned in an equally impassioned performance with frontman Parker Cannon firing his emotions at the crowd as if they emanated from the literal incarnation of his surname.

Escape the Fate at Extreme Thing 2016.

Escape the Fate at Extreme Thing 2016.

But as always, there was an abundance of outliers, highlighted by dank, East Coast hip-hop preservationists Jedi Mind Tricks—“I’mma resurrect hardbody rap from the dead,” frontman Vinnie Paz growled on “Deathless Light”—and djent ragers Volumes, who could have been mistaken for a Meshuggah cover band, though that’s never a bad thing.

One of the day’s most fun showings came from alternately caustic and festive Vegas ska punks The CG’s, whose frontman Greg Weston performed seated, icing a sore knee. “Don’t be so uptight,” he sang on “Devil’s Nectar.” “Just keep smilin.’”

Hey, Extreme Thing might be all grown up now, but that doesn’t mean it always has to act like it, you know?

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