By Paul Silver
Awesomefest 5 – More Awesome Than Last Year
Oh, the things I endure for you, dear readers, to get you
the scoop. This Labor Day weekend, I was sprayed with beer
several times, had a monitor speaker dropped on me, and
suffered a kick to the face from an errant stage diver.
Oh, but it was all worth it, for I was attending Awesomefest
5, an annual celebration of music, camaraderie, and beer.
This year it was September 2-4, 2011, as always in San Diego.
In many ways, it was the same experience as last year, but
in many ways it was different. In all ways, it was even
better than last year, if that’s even possible.
The things that were the same? Lots of great bands, lots
of great people, and lots of great times. The event was
held in the same venues as last year, with U31 and The Office
hosting the daytime shows, and Soda Bar and Eleven handling
the nighttime festivities. There were over 60 bands performing
some great punk music, and tons of people having a blast.
High fives from complete strangers are the norm, and everyone
is friendly and helpful.
Some changes from last year included a new host hotel (Sommerset
Suites replaced the Lafayette), and an Awesomefest special
at local pizza and beer joint Luigi’s ($2 slices and
$3 pints of Racer 5 IPA!) Daytime activities included a
picnic and Cornhole tournament in Balboa Park on Saturday,
and a foosball tournament at Luigi’s on Sunday. Gotta
keep those punks out of trouble, ya know!
One of the great things about Awesomefest is the people.
I hadn’t seen most of these people since last year,
yet a whole bunch of people remembered me, with calls of
“Hey, you’re the Jersey Beat guy,” or,
“You’re Jim Testa’s friend, right?”
And people I hadn’t met before struck up conversations
about music, about photography, about where they’re
from, and a whole host of topics. One fellow attendee, also
risking life and limb to take photos up front at the shows,
even bought me a shot. Thanks, man!
OK, so let’s get down to it. I know you’re
more interested in reading about the bands that were there
than in hearing me gush (though gush, I must – there
were almost no bands I couldn’t find enjoyable). OK,
here we go, here’s a (not so quick) rundown:
God Damn Doo Wop Band
Friday Night - September 2
I spent the evening in one venue, Soda Bar. One of the
more interesting aspects of Friday night at Soda Bar was
that every band on the bill either was all female or featured
female band members in prominent roles. Opening the night
was GOD DAMN DOO WOP BAND, who I also had seen last year.
They play just what you would think with a name like that,
50s style doo-wop, but with an edge and an attitude. Four
women front this band, harmonizing beautifully. Next up
was BOMBON, an all female band playing 60s style surf/garage
music. This was good stuff, too. Third on the bill was a
band I hadn’t heard of before, but instantly fell
in love with. LIPSTICK HOMICIDE – from my notes I
jotted down during the weekend, “Fuck yeah! Puts the
Awesome in Awesomefest!” This four-piece plays some
great power-pop-punk, and the two female leads have the
most awesome cat tats! I liked them so much that I picked
up all three CDs they had at the merch table, including
a new split CD (with Billy Raygun), which I’ll be
THE VISITORS were pretty okay melodic punk, while GATEWAY
DISTRICT performed a grittier garage-punk style. Oh, and
then – and then – NEW CREASES took the stage!
This is a band that I missed last year, even though everyone
was telling us (our esteemed editor was here for last year’s
party) that we just had to see them. Well, someone was too
tired and jet lagged… So this year, I made sure to
catch them, and I was sure glad I did – very powerful,
very melodic pop-punk here. Great stuff! Closing out the
night were THE SOVIETTES, another cool band, playing tight,
Greenland Is Melting
Steve Adamyk Band
Toys That Kill
Scared Of Chaka
Saturday Day - Sept 3
OK, so I spent the afternoon at one venue again, without
running back and forth. No, it’s not because I’m
getting old and lazy! U31 is where most of the bands I wanted
to see were at, OK? Shut up! Opening was GREENLAND IS MELTING,
a most unusual offering for Awesomefest. This is a (mostly)
acoustic band, featuring banjo, stand-up bass, acoustic
guitar and electric guitar, and they perform some cool bluegrass/country
music with an attitude. Not something you would associate
with a punk festival, but I really enjoyed it – enough
to buy their brand new CD they had just gotten that day.
Stand by for a review. WHITE NIGHT were next, and, sorry
to say, were not one of my favorites. The sound was a little
muddy, and it didn’t really get the enthusiasm flowing.
THE STEVE ADAMYK BAND played a cool mix of the Sex Pistols,
Ramones and more modern pop-punk. It was fast and furious,
with short, tight tunes.
TOYS THAT KILL didn’t kill. The played a slowish
punk/rock style that was a bit of a let-down after the Steve
Adamyk Band. But then the place filled up to capacity, as
aging punk legends SCARED OF CHAKA took the stage. Well,
aging they may be, but they don’t show it at all in
their performance! They’re still great! As one person
wrote on the Awesomefest forum when the band line-up was
announced, “Scared of Fuckin’ Chaka!”
The Slow Death
Vacation Bible School
Saturday Night - Sept 3
Please be nice. While I did start at one venue and then
moved to the other, I didn’t move back. THE SLOW DEATH
started out at Eleven, another band I saw last year. And
this year they were even better than I remembered, playing
some awesome punk music. Mikey Erg has to be one of the
hardest working men in punk show business, too, because
this is one of multiple bands he played with over the weekend.
A quick walk over to Soda Bar and VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL
came on. Hailing from the suburbs of Chicago, VBS play cool,
fun punk music from the heartland. BE MY DOPPELGANGER are
always a lot of fun, though they seemed a little sloppier
than last year. Maybe it’s all that PBR! Good Midwestern
punk. THE CREEPS played some good melodic power-pop that
reminded me a bit of early Smoking Popes sort of stuff.
THE WHITE WIRES received a lot of build-up, with lots of
people telling me how good they are. So it was a little
bit of a letdown, as I didn’t think they lived up
to the hype, playing noisy mid-tempo punk. THE MAXIES are
always hella fun (do the kids still say “hella?”).
The music is power-pop-punk, lots of fun, and they are better
than any other band at the festival (or so declared front-man
Maximum Maxie). One truth he did utter, though – there
were fewer beards adorning faces this year than last. Finally,
MEAN JEANS closed the night, and they did live up to the
hype. Smooth, yet furious, melodic punk music filled the
room, and then the night was over.
Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band
Sunday Day- September 4
OK, fuck you, assholes! You win. I went back and forth
between venues all day, just to catch the cream of the crop
for you ingrates. Starting out with THE BERTOS at U31. They’re
a local band from San Diego that are at their best on the
anthemic sing-a-long type songs. NATO COLES AND THE BLUE
DIAMOND BAND – holy shit, these guys are good! Powerful
and energetic, they play a blend of melodic punk and pop,
but it’s NOT pop-punk. Nato Coles is a pure entertainer!
Matt Army played with the band after learning all the songs
in a day, and celebrated his birthday at Awesomefest! Next,
a quick trot over to the Office, where I caught the tail
end of Jr. Juggernaut. Thankfully, just the tail end, as
this was the one band of the weekend I really didn’t
like at all. They played slow, boring, almost commercial
sounding rock music, complete with wanky guitar solos. Given
the small size of the crowd, I wasn’t the only one
who felt this way. But I really hit the Office to catch
THE COPYRIGHTS and their cool anthemic punk sounds –
pretty “awesome” stuff. OK, now it’s time
to run back to U31 to catch the final west coast appearance
of SHANG-A-LANG. A favorite from last year’s show,
they played great, melodic yet powerful punk. They will
be missed. And finally, back to The Office for IRON CHIC.
Iron Chic is (chic). They gave up a set of old school sounding
melodic punk that reminded me of some of the great bands
I used to listen to in the suburban Chicago scene back in
Sunday Night - September 4
After a quick dinner of pizza and Racer 5 at Luigi’s
with some other punkers, it was time for the final night
of Awesomefest 5. And yes, I went back and forth between
the clubs. CITY MOUSE, sadly, cancelled, but in their place
at Eleven was none other than MIKEY ERG, playing solo guitar
and singing. Including a cover of Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck
You” (!). STYMIE came on next, and fucking-A, played
some great hardcore crunch! Over at Soda Bar, FRENCH EXIT
play a gritty blend of pop-punk with a dash of 90s emo (a
compliment guys, don’t get upset!). SUMMER VACATION
play some decent, melodic music with a breezy, yet powerful
Returning to Eleven, I caught the ever incredible DAN PADILLA,
always a fucking blast. Following were UNFUN, loud, noisy,
crazy, and out of control! A highlight of the night, of
course! Finally, back at Soda Bar, JOYCE MANOR proved to
be the most melodic, most “pop” band of the
weekend, but still with a great edge to it.
I missed some good bands, too. Such is the nature of Awesomefest,
where you have to make some hard choices. I would have loved
to have seen Turkish Techno, who I also missed last year,
but are great. I heard Muhammad Ali was really good. And
I really regret missing Shark Pants. There were some nice
things said about Lenguas Largas, and I missed the legendary
MOTO. But hey, I had a great time! Many thanks to Kyle Corn
and the whole all-volunteer team that put this year’s
festival together. I really look forward to next year!
If you would like to check out more photos from Awesomefest
5, go to my photo
albums and I’ll soon be writing up a review of
the Awesomefest 5 CD compilation featuring tracks from 40
(!!) bands from this year’s fun.
San Diego After Dark
is an independently published music fanzine
covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage
music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State
area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music
fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming
bands and a resource for all those interested in
rock and roll.