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Punk Rock Bowling Monday recap: Cock Sparrer, Pennywise, Discharge and more

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Pennywise performs during the Punk Rock Bowling Music Festival at the Downtown Events Center in Las Vegas, NV, Monday, May 30, 2017.
Photo: Yasmina Chavez

Cock Sparrer At this point, it seems safe to assume the London street-punk progenitors will fill a headlining slot at Punk Rock Bowling every third year. That’s been the pattern since the festival expanded its scope and moved Downtown in 2011.

“Are you getting tired of us yet or what,” vocalist Colin McFaull asked three songs into Monday night’s performance at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. The crowd cheered, but the answer to McFaull’s question was a resounding, “no,” based on the response to Cock Sparrer’s 75-minute send-off to Punk Rock Bowling 2017.

Punk Rock Bowling Monday

There wasn’t a single other act on the lineup capable of pausing three consecutive songs—“Take ’em All”, “Where Are They Now?” and “England Belongs to Me,” near the end of the set—to allow for audience a capellas. And Cock Sparrer truthfully could have pulled the same stunt for each of the other eight songs played off 1983’s Shock Troops, one of the finest records the punk scene has ever produced.

Troops material outnumbered everything else combined from Cock Sparrer’s 45-year career on the setlist, and even though that made this appearance somewhat similar to the 2011 or 2014 shows, no one looked disappointed. In fact, the only time the crowd seemed less than fully engrossed came when Cock Sparrer dipped into Forever, the band’s first album in a decade released earlier this year, for back-to-back cuts.

The sexagenarians had an endearing outlook about it all, though. “Believe me, I’m as surprised as you all,” McFaull said of releasing a record that gave the band full-lengths in five different decades. The festival billed it as Cock Sparrer’s “last U.S. show for a long time,” but closing with “We’re Coming Back” felt like a promise. If all goes to according to tradition, we’ll see Cock Sparrer again in 2020.

Pennywise Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, who performed Saturday night, were supposed to be the only cover band at Punk Rock Bowling, but Pennywise ended up using a portion of its 45 minutes playing others artists’ songs.

The Hermosa Beach, California, four-piece paid homage to its city’s forbearers, bringing out former Circle Jerks/Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson for covers the former’s “Wild in the Streets” and the latter’s “Do What You Want.” They botched both, dismissed Hetson and laughed about what classic song they could ruin next before getting through Minor Threat’s “Minor Threat” without fault.

Pennywise also false-started one of its own songs due to a miscommunication, with guitarist Fletcher Dragge joking that three days of debauchery at the festival were to blame. Three punk anthems to conclude the show—“Society”, “F*ck Authority” and “Bro Hymn”—helped Pennywise redeem itself, but the best thing to come out of the set might have been a not-so-subtle suggestion to the Stern brothers, Punk Rock Bowling’s organizers. “Circle Jerks, it’s about f*cking time,” Dragge said before the cover. “Make it happen, Sterns.”

The Adicts Even with a 42-year career built largely on theatrics, the Suffolk, England, glam-punks somehow find a way to keep upping their showmanship. Frontman Keith Warren arrived onstage wrapped in plastic, before busting out on the first note of “Let’s Go” to reveal a sprawling peacock-like outfit over a suit with a mirrored disco ball jacket. And thus the 45-minute confetti-shooting, streamer-launching, card-tossing extravaganza began.

The Adicts are undeniably catchy without any accessories, but the production value rockets them to irresistible. They can inspire the most jaded of punks to crack a smile in a fun-loving circle pit, of which there were three when The Adicts tore into trademark song, “Viva la Revolution.”

Discharge Consider it an inspired act of schedule-making to pit the most miserable band immediately before the most joyous. And Discharge did rage almost as well as The Adicts did euphoria on Monday.

The Staffordshire, England group have always been vehemently politically charged, so it was essential to roll six minutes of audio recounting the misdeeds of man and religion before the band came out. It gave the audience a chance to think, for which there was no time once Discharge began its pummeling 40-minute performance.

Discharge didn’t focus too long on any one period of its 40-year career, though the material from 1982’s debut Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing sliced the sharpest. The crusty hardcore still sounded incredibly modern, proving that Discharge deserves more credit for being ahead of its time.

A beach ball floating toward the stage threatened to kill the menacing mood at one point, but vocalist Tezz Roberts batted it down in one motion while screaming, “Tomorrow is ours,” to conclude “A Look at Tomorrow”. With the four bands after them making repeat visits to Punk Rock Bowling, Discharge’s set felt like the day’s most special.

Booze & Glory It’s a testament to Cock Sparrer’s legacy that acts from its hometown continue to emulate the band nearly a half-century later. Booze & Glory pays tribute to its influences well, with its own upbeat Oi! anthems detailing working-class pride.

Lion’s Law The Paris counterpart to Booze & Glory, more or less—another SHARP (skinheads against racial prejudice) entry into the sound Cock Sparrer popularized, though its tone was slightly gloomier. In the two cities’ long-running rivalry, give this one to London by a hair. As a sub-genre, Oi! sounds best with an element of fun.

Wolfpack The Melbourne, Australia, trio donates all proceeds to charity. So while it might have been difficult to connect with Wolfpack’s laborious switches between chuggy hardcore, crossover thrash and street punk, it was harder not to root for the band. “I can’t tell you how much it means to be a part of this community,” vocalist/drummer Tom Wolf said. “That’s what punk rock is to us.”

Roadside Bombs No other band at Punk Rock Bowling more evenly influenced by all three of the festival’s headliners than this Sonoma, California, outfit. Roadside Bombs shared the most in common with Cock Sparrer, but guitarist Richard Webb’s short, blazing solos didn’t sound unlike the ones from Bad Religion’s Brian Baker on Saturday night. And vocalist Ben Coleman moved with an attitude Iggy Pop practically patented. They put it all together for a pleasing mid-afternoon performance.

The Quitters The lone local band to grace Punk Rock Bowling’s main stage this year made Las Vegas proud, seamlessly weaving in and out of influences from different punk subgenres during an intense 20-minute start to Monday’s schedule. “We’re extremely humbled and honored to be representing Las Vegas,” vocalist/bassist Marc Roqsberg said.

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