Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Awesomefest 5 – More Awesome Than Last Year

By Paul Silver

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


Lipstick Homicide

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 reviewing soon.

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, edgy power-punk.

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 the day.

Mikey Erg

Dan Padilla

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 feel.

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.

More Photos


French Exit

Gateway District

Iron Chic

Lipstick Homicide

Joyce Manor

Mean Jeans

New Creases


San Diego After Dark



White Night

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