Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

by Rex Stickel
Photos by Jim Testa & Johnny Puke

Vegas is one of the few promises in the world that appears to be kept despite the changing times, sitting out in the desert stuck halfway between a past we never saw and a future we’re not sure is sticking around. The past is bright, and can be seen preserved in the junk lands of old signs and structures; and the future is even brighter, LCD screens filling every corner of the eye, sprawling across the giant buildings filled with the happiest and saddest people in the world. I found myself marveling at the beauty of it all, the ever encompassing skyline of the mountains and orange dirt, first feeling protective and enveloping like a sunburnt hug, but as the time passes, transforming itself into a self convicting prison. The visiting goons from around the world all appeared to be displaying the same perma-grin I seemed to share while the few locals I encountered seemed closer to inmates, doing their time serving the eager public. I loved every second of it.

You only find yourself in Las Vegas for either business or pleasure, and my business was the pleasure of Punk Rock, in the form of a music festival wrapped around a bowling tournament. We would be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Punk Rock Bowling (PRB) this year, and I was attending with a mixture of old pros and greenhorns like me. I had the fortune of rubbing elbows with the elite and at the same time forgiven for getting lost nearly every other turn. I decided the year before I was no longer going to leave it to the pros, and decided to join along and see if it really was all about community, exactly what the Punk Nation had been shouting for the last 19 years. All you need to know to begin to understand this unlikely event are the minds behind this endeavor: Shawn and Mark Stern.

Johnny Puke and Joe McMahon, two happy campers

The Stern brothers are known for many things, their band Youth Brigade most likely the most noteworthy. You’ve seen the film they made as kids, touring the the US and Canada in a school bus that only seemed to drive 20 yards at a time, “Another State Of Mind”. (If you haven’t and need a reason to drink beer and stay up all night, please visit your local Internet connection). What you might not know is they’ve been running one of the most popular punk labels of all time, BYO Records. They’ve had the pleasure of releasing music by bands like Hot Water Music, Rancid, Bouncing Souls, and 7 Seconds, so they’re good at what they do. They essentially wanted to have a bowling party for punks in 1999 and invite all their friends. Well, their friends are all in awesome bands, run great labels, zines, booking agencies, bars, etc. Why not force them all to bowl against each other, have the bands play sets, and let all the punks be punks? It’s what they do! Did I mention the Sterns are also directly responsible for the resurgence of swing in the 90’s? Yes, that’s them in “The Mask” starring Jim Carrey, putting a little swing in your ding-a-ling. These brothers appear to do it all. And this time, we’re doing it all in Las Vegas.

I’m fortunate enough to have a major “in” into this world, as I happen to be buddies with an 18-year PBR vet who also happens to be a 35-year vet in the world of punk rock. He’s been a punk since he learned how to lift his middle finger, been the lead singer of successful bands like Cletus, managed countless bands like Alkaline Trio, and will forever be connected with the demise of late great, doomed G.G. Allin. He responds to the name Johnny Puke. Other than being a fixture in the scene, as well as a forever fan of the music, Johnny has been bowling at the tournament for over a decade now. He is proudly a “Jersey Beater, Punk Rock Defeater”, and joined by long-time New Jersey Zine overseer Jim Testa, bar tender/crabbing enthusiast Tia Clark, and Andy “Can’t Find My Team Bowling Shirt” Peters. Together they form a mighty bowling team that has taken the trophy for both 3rd and 4th place in their 17 years, and this year I tagged along to see if they had the wherewithal to bring home the trophy. Also, Hot Water Music is playing a club show, who the hell is gonna miss that??

A little punk rock mischief

If you’re like me, and visiting from the East coast, the first trick Vegas plays on you is the ole’ time travel bit. Leaving South Carolina at 7:25 am and touching down in Nevada at 12:30pm sounds convenient, but going from Eastern to Pacific time in one day is quite a bit of a mindfuck; more on that later. Besides regretting spending the extra $0.07 for a plastic bag to carry my $14 snacks, the first order of business after touching down was hooking up with my roommate for the weekend, Chris “Ugly” Robbins.

While technically bandmates, Chris and I were friends through (wait for it) Johnny Puke. They were friends since college, having started their first band together and continuing a friendship to this day. Although I was in diapers when Puke and Ugly formed their rap-rock band Stinky Finger all the way back in 1986, a recent string of reunion shows from the previous year reconnected the old friends. Once the performances were over and the band voted their original guitar player out from participating in any further band activities, they asked if I was interested in filling in on guitar. Turns out, I was. Although the band reunion has taken a spot on the back burner recently, this particular reunion was for a different reason. Chris had been the victim of a massive heart attack just months before, and was lucky to be alive. After much discussion with the wifey, it was decided before he pleads his case to St Peter, he better go have a Vegas weekend with the boys. But here we were, two guys probably not in shape for what was looming for the weekend, hugging it out in the Vegas airport, bags in hand. It was good to see him outside of the imagery of a hospital.

It didn’t take much time after getting the normal pleasantries and greetings out of the way that our attention turned to the First Order of Business: Ubering to a local dispensary. We had to leave the airport anyway, so why not? I had heard of this “marijuana” and with the state of Nevada legalizing recreational use in 2017, I didn’t want to be the only punk rocker not experiencing all there is to experience. After all, I’m on vacation. So after safely entering in the address of our thoroughly researched cannabis superstore, we get a ride from the only sane person I interacted with the entire weekend who drove an Uber. I look back and almost wish I had just gotten her number and seen if she’d work out a deal and just be our personal driver for the weekend, if I knew then what I know now.

The legal cannabis industry has somehow become just as boring as shopping for a used car or watching someone else open their birthday presents. Sure, at the end of it all you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor but they certainly do make it labor. They’ve gone too far from the subtle drug deal and drag it out in a process similar to how I imagine a bar that sold farts would operate, holding out jar after jar of what I could only tell is the same thing over and over again. Do I want to feel slightly buzzed but not too much and also have a slight German accent? Try this. Do you wanna feel like you’re floating in water but not be able to control your body functions? Here’s a hybrid. I found myself seconds away from just demanding “GIMME THE WEED LADY” and suddenly we were done. We had danced around the floor long enough, the band was packing up and we were allowed to leave. Which was good, as I had reservations with some old friends at Gordon Ramsay Steak looming in an hour or so.

Punks, bowling.

To declare our next Uber driver insane just because he didn’t speak a lick of English would be unfair, but let’s just say he wasn’t pushing the boundaries of sanity either. We eventually made it to our hotel after several loops around the block; I assume our driver just wanted us to familiarize ourselves with the surrounding buildings, or just didn’t understand the signs POINTING to passenger drop off/pick up. Either way, we made it to our palace for the weekend, The D.

My smile seemed to stretch even further taking in all the moderately priced swankiness that is The D. Sure there had been slots at the airport, but this was a Vegas hotel, the REAL DEAL. I can’t remember being as giddy as I was while we were checking in, the electric vibe the place was putting out, and the extra oxygen being pumped through the air ducts as I’ll discover later on. It felt like home right away.

While our room wasn’t a suite, it was definitely sweet, and overlooked the grounds for the music festival below. To our surprise, we could see AND hear the bands from our hotel room. Neat. We started a bit nervous considering what we had just purchased prior to staking our claim at The D, but our nerves seemed to shift into comfort as we passed every door that seemed to all be producing the same familiar smell. If we were going down, by God this entire floor would go down with us. Lucky for us, nothing but Punks as far as the eye could see, down the hallway, in the elevator, checking in, at the slots. We were among US. Perhaps any other weekend the white hairs and the fun police may have had some words to say, but not this weekend. The Punks owned this block for a few days and we were gonna take advantage.

Now at this exact moment, it would have made the most sense to try out some of the items purchased, kick off the shoes and prepare for the rest of the night by sleeping with my eyes open, but I had a date with a Beef Wellington.

My ace-in-the-hole this weekend were a trio of friends visiting from Montana. They had moved away from Charleston last September, and we were all reuniting in Las Vegas. No matter what happened from here on out, seeing all my friends again was worth all the time, money, and effort. After a round of hugs and much debate about whether or not a grown woman in overalls would be admitted to such a fancy pants lounge as Gordon Ramsay Steak, we parted ways to meet down by the car drop off/pickup. Now would be a great time to reveal a charming detail about the elevator system in The D. In either a stroke of true brilliance (or ignorance), all function buttons that operate which floor the elevator reaches are located OUTSIDE of the elevator. So you press the button to the floor you want, it will tell you which of the 5 elevators will be taking you, it eventually shows up, and boom you step inside. Doors close, and it takes you wherever you keyed in last. The trouble with that, is if there were any mistakes, or you were a little impatient outside and mashed a bunch of buttons, you have no control once you get inside the box. Good luck.

My trouble started sometime outside of the elevator, and the details are a little fuzzy. After changing into a polo and khakis (HOT) and possibly consuming a small dose of LSD, I made my way to the elevator to meet my friends downstairs. My room is up on floor 22 so it's not quite a long way down, but it takes its time. So when the doors finally pop open, I start happily on my way, walking towards the sounds of the whistles and bells of the casino downstairs. I walk towards where I’m pretty sure I came from and...nope. Dead end. I turn around to the elevator and try the other direction, which led to the Diner. “I don’t remember that..” crawls across my brain as I slowly realize, I am lost. “Ok, keep it together. It’s your first time. You have 30 minutes until your reservation, and you’re 20 minutes away. You’re fine.” I walk and walk, passing by the same style of games and people, hoping to see some sort of recognizable ANYTHING. And then it hits me. FOLLOW THE EXIT SIGNS. Of course!

I pull the handle on a nearly hidden door with EXIT right above it, and immediately realize I’m getting even more lost. These are not flashy carpets and bells and whistles. I’m walking on linoleum floors among white walls, mazing left and right. I turn a corner and suddenly I’m face to face with a chef. A real life chef coat and chef hat wearing, mustachioed chef. He give me the strangest look, and asks, “What are you doing back here?” Just as I throw my hands up and declare I’m the lostest boy of them all, a nice lady in a pantsuit and name tag appears and saves me. She begins to escort me back to civilization, explaining that I had gotten off on Level 2, not Level 1, where my friends are surely waiting. As we’re walking, we run into another group of confused lost youth, as they had come from outside on an escalator that only seemed to go up, with no ‘down’ counter part. “That’s how they get you,” I thought to myself.

Once safely on the ground floor, I made sure to drop breadcrumbs this time and made my way towards the natural light of the sun. This of course was also the wrong way, but now I was at least outside of the building. I had exited the front door of The D which led to Fremont street, where all the action happens. Besides droves of clueless noobs like myself, the street was filled with vendors, performers of all kinds, bands, dancers, everything in between. I shit you not, as all of this is happening on the street, directly above us are tourists zip lining down the length of the street. There was a full on country concert going on, and I had walked out at the end of their last song. I was in awe of the crowd these folks were performing to, just hundreds of people stopped in their tracks watching a cover band I’m sure they’ve never heard of. Being in a (Thin Lizzy) cover band myself, I was very impressed with the crowd, thinking, “Boy it would be a thrill to perform in front of so many people!” But just as I allowed myself to put myself in their shoes, something very interesting happened. Without missing a beat, as soon as the band was done, the entire audience turned around and then gave their full attention to two people dressed as Power Rangers performing the newest dance craze to an actual boom box. I then felt for the egos of all the members of the cover band.

I let instinct take over and made my way back inside The D, and back outside to where I was supposed to be, 20 minutes ago. There my friends were waiting, I’m sure to hear exactly what I had been doing. I was busy ordering an Uber on my phone. We sat and people watched at the valet station, every other car reminding us we are among probably some of the richest folks we’ve ever seen, even having spent time in the Carolinas. After what felt entirely too long, we pile into our Uber, only to be politely asked to exit as none of us were “Jessica”, the client who had actually ordered the Uber. This was becoming tedious. 10 minutes after our reservation time comes and goes, we’re finally in the right car heading in what I hope is the right direction. I can’t be too sure, as the driver speaks in a heavy foreign accent, and the only words I can make out him saying are “Donald”, “Trump” and “Great man”, so I’m clearly not listening anymore. 100 years later, we pull up to Caesar’s Palace. Is that where we were going? Of course not.

It's almost as much fun looking at the bowling shirt as actually bowling!

A quick Google search revealed to us our driver had not listened to the details, and instead of bringing us to Gordon Ramsay Steak, he brought us to Hell’s Kitchen, 7 miles away from the establishment I had reservations at 40 minutes ago. With not much else to lose, we try our luck at Hell’s Kitchen, and to our surprise, we get right in. The meal that followed was honestly some of the best food I’ve ever put in my mouth, from the cheese topped squares of watermelon to the rare tender filet inside the Wellington all the way to the final spoon full of Gordon’s famous sticky pudding. Sometimes I close my eyes and hope I open them still sitting at that table, carving into the best meal I’ve had in years.

Yes, it’s time for another insane Uber driver, this time he’s an older Tobias Funke type.

“I betchya ten bucks I can getchya to Th’ D without touching Las Vegas Boulevard,” he sort of moaned out. “Betchya money that place right there has the best prime rib off the strip. Betchya money.” This guy somehow slithered while sitting still.

“I bet YOU couldn’t drive past a school without touching something ya fuckin creep,” I thought to myself as I cut eyes to my companions. Are we gonna have to run this time? It was as hard to look at this guy, his glasses were so plastic and big they nearly sat on his orange mustache.

The relief of climbing out of the series of Ubers at The D became refreshing and routine. You had the walk to the room to shake it off, and if it was before 5pm you could grab an iced caramel coffee sugar bomb to wash down the bad feelings. Before we knew it, it was time to part ways for our respective club shows, my friends attending The Dwarves and the NJ Beater Squad was splitting time between Joe McMahon and Joey Cape and Hagfish. The Joes were bros and Hagfish was a band that rarely comes to our side of the States, so tough choices had to be made. That is the nature of the Club Shows at PRB. There’s a chance you have to choose between a favorite band or another favorite band. It’s as hard as it sounds. We were walking out of The D as my entire body seized up. Full body cramp.

Cramp? Try a Charlie horse in every muscle. What was the one thing I was warned about and clearly ignored all day? I was dehydrated. I needed water. I managed to convey this much to my group, and waddled across the street to the corner store. I made it back to my room with two torpedo tubes of water under my arms. My phone starts to vibrate. Someone sent me a video of my roommate taking a tequila shot with a scorpion in it. The last thing I remember was hearing the hotel room door shut behind me.


Phone rings. I reach out from a coma to stop the alien sound. Pure instinct drags out a “..hello..?”

“Where’s Cookie? Send her ass down here to play cards.”

“......Sorry man, wrong room.”

“Allright then.”


Phone rings. Too stupid too let things alone, I answer.


“Ay would you tell Cookie to get to 715 to play cards?? 715! We’re waiting on her ass!”

“Uh, sorry man this is still the wrong number.”

“Oh, well...y’all wanna play cards?”

“.....No we’re good.”

“Well if you see Cookie around tell her 715.”

Ugly and I had decided early on we wanted the entire PRB experience so we were definitely going to support our New Jersey Beaters, Punk Rock Defeaters in the tournament. First up of course was to sample the breakfast delicacies offered by The D Grill (affectionately called the “Waddya Want For Free” Grill by Johnny Puke, since long time members can use their loyalty cards here), so we hit the now very-familiar-to-me second floor. Our Asian waitress was introduced to us as Ken, contrary to her name tag saying Maria (however after further investigation ALL the female servers had a tag that said Maria so do with that what you will) and I ordered the Chicken & Pancakes. The place is a little bit of a funhouse mirror of a diner. Viva Las Vegas.

The bowling tournament takes place in a older hotel/casino called Sam’s Town, and was the only place so visited that you could taste it. I suspect it has something to do with housing 50 bowling lanes below the casino where every one smokes, and all the pins knocking around prevent the decade smoke to never settle into the walls. The D is like a slick uncle. This place was Grandpa. (Editor's Note: Assuming your grandpa is a morbidly obese retiree from Iowa who lives in an RV. That said, I love Sam's Town.)

Jersey Beaters, Punk Rock Defeaters (Well, not this year...)

To your average punk rock fan, the tournament really is a Who’s Who of the weekend. (Editor's Note: I said hello to the publicist from Fat Wreck, the legendary Greg Hetson, the singer from The Briefs, and the Stern brothers themselves.) Our team was bowling on the two lanes next to the Fat Wreck Chords team. Fat Erin is passing out donuts. I recognize the guitar player from Lagwagon. Yeah he’s about 6’11” and called Big Bitch, but I still recognized him. Today was Day 1, which is the friendly day. Everyone high fives, shares pitchers of beer, and nobody really even made fun of Johnny Puke when he fell forward on his face while delivering a ball to the gutter. Like I said, friendly bowling. It’s Day 2 where friends become enemies. It also means loser walks, so your buddies yesterday are now your fierce competition, including the folks right next to you, versus who’s next to them and so on. Day 2 is also when everybody is hung over, out of drugs, and pissed off. And NOW you gotta get up and bowl because you kicked ass yesterday at bowling? Seems counterintuitive but this is what it’s all about. Sweet bragging rights about winning the trophy.

I wish this story had a Mighty Ducks 2 direction to take, but let’s just say we could all sleep in the next day. We came, they bowled, now it’s time to rock. Now we can focus on important things like how to stay awake and attend a show a 4am eastern, 1am local time, or what kind of pizza do we get from Pizza Rock (Answer: Margarita). It also felt like time to start some serious gambling. It was a good time to get my own loyalty card. And good thing we did; within 30 minutes I was up $250.

Here is where the gluttony of fun begins to devour itself: it was time to stop having fun so we could go over here and have fun. It’s a strange side effect of Vegas, I suspect most folks would be late to their own funeral. Hitting the festival on the high of winning money was a grand idea, just in case it turned out to be not so fun. But that was never a problem. We walked up as L7 were ripping through their set, and I’m happy and ready to report they were one of the tightest bands all weekend. They played new songs that sounded as classic as the classics and did themselves justice to anyone who may have been a naysayer regarding ladies of a certain age couldn’t rock. They were fantastic.

Suicidal Tendencies played next, and before you could say “Pepsi” they churned out 9 or 10 songs that usually included chanting variations of their band name. I’ve always sensed these guys get away playing by their own rules and always will. It works for what it is, even all these years later. True pioneers. One innovation I did notice during the Suicidal set was one guy hardcore dancing, like really thrashing around on his hands and feet, but he was picking up trash as he was doing it. Sort of brought back my faith in strangers.

The crown jewel of the night and headliner was Rise Against. For some reason I can’t come up with a compliment that doesn’t sound condescending so I’ll say their performance was something like watching LeBron dunk and do lay ups all night. True professionals doing what they do for another huge audience who appreciated it. Class act.

If you thought I had learned my lesson about staying hydrated by now, you haven’t been paying attention. Lagwagon was to be the Club Show, starting at a shiny 1am. My vision stopped working about 11:30pm. I felt safe in my room. Plus rumor has it tomorrow was to be the Big Bro Buffet, where all the buds and bros are coming, from Jughead (Screeching Weasel) to Joey Cape (Lagwagon) to Joe McMahon (Smoke or Fire) and the NJB bowling team were all gonna join and have a toast for the 20th Anniversary. The possibilities danced in my head as I curled up in a ball on my bed.

Main Street Station was the buffet of choice, just a block or two from The Golden Nugget. The walk there gave me an opportunity to become familiar with the desert sun and heat and I immediately resented both. Our breakfast Bros were dropping out like flies, either catching earlier flights, earlier breakfasts, or just saw the line and thought it was too damn long. (Editor's Note: That would be me and Andy, who like all native Jerseyans do not stand in line for nothin'.) I was told inside the casino they have an actual section of the Berlin Wall in the men’s room specifically just to piss on. We were going. Besides the Berlin Piss Wall, Main Street Station also boasted Winston Churchill’s snooker table, as well as an air conditioned walkway to the hotel next door, The California. And there was no fucking way I was walking in the sun again.

The California is a strange bird indeed, in the sense that it’s located in Las Vegas, called The California, decorated and themed in Hawaiian garb, and advertised exclusively to Hawaiians. The dealers all wear Hawaiian shirts, but themselves are not Hawaiian. 100% of the clientele is Hawaiian, and the only reason I’m telling you this is...isn’t that weird as shit?

An old picture of Johnny at Binion's

Just past The California on this same journey back is Binion’s, the birthplace of The World Series of Poker. One of the most important casinos at one time, now barely houses even slot machines, most of the space in the back taken up with giant advertisements for other places or the steakhouse on the top floor. Another Vegas side effect, there’s always a dozen other coats of paint under the shiniest.

By this point it was clear if I had any chance to make the Club Show that night, sleep would have to become part of the prep. So I laid down and listened to the show outside my window, relaxing my barking dogs and swollen cats. I don’t remember setting an alarm but I do remember being woken up by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who were honking away outside my window. After fielding a dozen “WHERE ARE YOU??” texts, I made my way across the street to the show. I almost had to paddle my arms through a sea of Donald Ducks as I had just missed Turbonegro (DAMMIT). The Bosstones were up there looking sharp, doing their thing, never knocking on wood or whatever. All I knew was next up was NOFX, and they could never do no harm.

Turbo Negro has an army of fans called Turbo Jugend

Here’s what I will say about NOFX; I’ve been a fan a long time, have been to a bunch of shows, and I know what to expect. Now, would I appreciate a band I like showing up to my hometown, Charleston, SC, and then try and riff comedy on a church shooting? No. But there was something lost in translation from being there and what was printed in some things I read. What THEY do is SELF-deprecate, first and foremost. Will they make fun of others? Sure. Did theycome to Vegas to make light of what happened? No. But it did happen, and folks got hurt. I didn’t think it would go any further than the audible groan that came from the live crowd, but people are allowed to feel their feelings. Other than that, the show was great.

But the best was still to come and soon we would be making the journey to the last Club Show of the weekend. Hot Water Music has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember, and this was my first chance at seeing them. Since the venue they were performing at was a staple to the festival, our experienced crew members knew exactly how to spend the time before: screwdrivers made with fresh squeezed orange juice at Atomic Liquors. Of course this place is awesome, in the artsy up and coming part of town, yet still old Vegas at the same time. It was actually named for being a watering hole for scientists and staff working on nuclear tests out in the desert and has the video footage and time capsule right in the floor of the bar to prove it.

The show was next door at an outdoor venue called The Bunkhouse, and we were lucky enough to catch the end of one of the opening bands, Strike Anywhere. Having never heard them before, I was blown away. Exactly the energy we needed to receive and return at that time of night, even after a few screwdrivers. The lead singer gave his white guy in dreads community a real bump up in my book that night. HWM took the stage, and even without co-founder Chris Wollard as part of the line up, they were everything I had hoped for. Hell, they seemed to have played all my favorite songs. Chris Cresswell from The Flatliners filled in, and couldn’t have done a better job. It’s such a pleasure to be present for one of your favorite bands just fucking killing it. I appreciate it so much being a door guy and hearing mostly NOT my favorite bands.

Johnny, Andy and Jim went to see Hagfish

We decided since we were all wound up on screwdrivers and high on life from HWM and high on drugs from the drugs, tonight would be our late night gambling session. I was getting bad vibes early on, chewing up my earlier winnings faster than I had planned. Tia was my slot partner, and she was getting it done. They say watching someone win is just as fun; wait, do they say that? They shouldn’t. Now Tia didn’t just have luck in the slots that night, she picked up a predator and immediately deduced I was prey. After a bit she came up to me and said, “You know it looks like that girl is trying to get your attention. She just walked passed me twice, too soon to actually be walking around.”

“Hmm, I didn’t see her,” I said honestly and Tia went off to keep cleaning up. That’s when I felt someone slink their hand up my arm. I looked, and there she was. Black dress, chopped hair, almost wounded looking. She started to talk but could only squeak, it took her a while to clear her throat of whatever hard drugs she had been smoking earlier. “...someone...stole my ba...”

I leaned in like an idiot.


“My bag. .....stole it,” she coughed out.

“In the hotel?” I ask. She nodded. “Well there’s like a million” She quickly changes the subject. “Hey, which button is Max Bet?” And starts pressing buttons on my slot machine.

“Alright Julia Roberts, that’s enough. Good luck with your ‘bag’.” I think she quickly realized I was betting quarters and decided I didn’t have the $800 she was gonna quote me. I went to bed happy as a fresh clam.

During the entire weekend and culminating on the final night was the electricity of the NHL Finals, which first year team Vegas Knights were apart of, and the city couldn’t have been more excited. (Editor's note: This is true. I couldn't believe how totally Hockey Fever had swept through Vegas. It was like being in Boston when the RedSox were in the World Series.) Our goal for the day was to watch the Knights win, and cap off the trip with Against Me!, X, and At The Drive In. But before that, Tia was gonna show me how to bet the ponies. Ponies? you ask, yes ponies, and even though those little bastards are plastic and dragged around by magnets , I’ve never had so much fun in my motherfucking life. At first you watch folks getting turnt up and acting wild watching these little plastic ponies and think, “Boy that’s embarrassing. That won’t be ME.” You’re wrong, cowboy. Shit gets intense. I’ve never had more fun handing money away. 10/10 would bet ponies again. Just as we head out to catch the end of Against Me! the place goes nuts. Knights win.

I’m assuming most folks were allowing fatigue to set in as this was the most docile night of the festival so far. X delivered in a big way, bringing some different sounds we hadn’t quite heard that weekend that was perfect for the Vegas setting. I was told the singer could get political on stage (Editor's note: Exene is an asshat) but thankfully it was all about the music. Last but not least was the redheaded step-child of PRB, At The Drive-In. Months of online complaining had led me to actual curiosity how this was gonna play out, among the complaints the band “wasn’t punk rock enough” or just an “emo band”. I’ll be honest, I am more familiar with the main duo’s other project, Mars Volta, but ATDI earned their place on that stage as far as I’m concerned. All requirements to enjoy them is to enjoy music and passion, and pretty sure those two elements are what brought everyone there. That and girls with mohawks.

This was the beginning of the end for me, as some idiot (me) had booked a 7:25am flight back home. Time to let reality set in and go back to the way things were. I was ready. I’ve been pressing myself to see if I really did learn anything new about attending shows, while experiencing something totally new to me, the animal that is Vegas. And thankfully what I learned was what I already knew: this was the place for me. For everyone with insecurities who found that power in music, who throw their grain against the odds of life by even being able to afford such a good time, to the folks who consider those same people family. Punk rock is a finite resource. Going through the last 20 years of bands and the only constant is we’re getting older and closer to death. Why not come out to the desert once a year and play the odds? You may just win a bowling trophy.


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