Multiple day music festivals are more common than crop tops on pre-teens these days, but when I was a young music fan, there was no such thing. The first time I went to a show with more than three bands and one stage was Lollapalooza in 1991. My memories are limited, but include being among the 100 people actually stoked to see Henry Rollins before breakfast and a girl getting hit in the head with a lime and barfing next to me on a blanket. I do remember that Butthole Surfers and Jane’s Addiction both played and had stellar sets. From there, I went on to many more Lollapaloozas, Warped Tours and Tibetan Freedom Concerts (thanks Aunt Sue). Multiple Day music festivals became one of the highlights of my summers and sometimes whole years. Somewhere along the line I got too old or too lame to spend three days in the sun trying to soak up boob sweat while keeping my hair from gluing itself to my face. I’m going to blame this on my husband since the last festival I attended was Milwaukee Metalfest a few years before we got married where a guy in my party stole King Diamond’s hat and wore it in the van on the way home. Granted, I was working at that show manning a merch booth and babysitting a bunch of drunk musicians, so that could have been why I quit going to festivals, but it took until my daughter was 5 to get back to one. My little punk rock girl went to her first true festival to see one band play – The Interrupters at Warped Tour 2016.
I had been trying to get my husband to take me to Punk Rock Bowling since my kiddo’s first punk show, but his idea of a good vacation does not include standing in the sun with sweaty dudes, while avoiding drunk 20 year old girls spilling beer on our shoes for three days. Sometimes I have to ask – who did I marry?!? When I saw the lineup for 2023 and knew we weren’t going to see the Interrupters in Detroit this year I talked him into getting tickets since I knew it was the one band that would get him to go. So we jumped on a plane with a suitcase full of band Ts and Chuck Taylors to stay in the most degenerate buttcrack of the US in Downtown Las Vegas. You heard me, not the strip, the old, lawless, anything goes, Freemont Street, Las Vegas.
We arrived at the Golden Nugget just in time to see some showgirls try to get a skinny kid with a pink mohawk to take some photos with them and a man who looked like he just crawled out of a sewer get dragged out of the casino across the street. My daughter had her first viewing of a homeless man on PCP getting talked down by the police on the street, roving bachelorette party girls with glowing dick highball glasses and boas, and the entire cast of Chippendales dancers all in one evening. We had a lot of nice chats that night about how the police were doing good work at handling hard situations, how people make money dancing half naked, how bad choices and bad luck sometimes come together in a perfect storm and people end up asking for money in the streets, and how half our country is worried about something so innocent as drag queens reading books to their kids. We also got to see an old punk smoking weed outside of our hotel and being a dick to a nice family walking by, and I had to point out that even old punks can be assholes. We’re not all perfect.
But on to the music… Day one highlights were seeing the Interrupters and Bad Religion. I also got to see Fishbone whom I have not seen in 25 years and Me First & the Gimme Gimmes who are both hilarious and talented. Although we didn’t get as close to the stage as I would normally get, we were able to get up close and personal with Greg Gaffin earlier in the day while he was doing book signings and we were picking up merch that I pre-ordered. I have to say, for me watching the Interrupters is always amazing but watching my kid see them from her first time as a five year old with only about 20 people watching to now with a huge crowd singing all of their songs along with them is one of my favorite things to watch. She no longer lets me film her singing along like she did at five years old, but I did manage to get a stealthy little clip which I promised not to share with anyone publicly ever. My kid has grown up with this band as they have grown, so they will always be something special for me.
Day two was a later start for us since we didn’t care about seeing most of the early line up, so we swam with sharks at the hotel pool for a bit before doing some damage at the vendor booths and food trucks. I’m pretty sure my husband ate his body weight in dumplings and my kid drank about 400 watermelon slushies while I bought a few more band Ts and punk rock crew socks. We did manage to catch Face to Face, GBH, the Damned and of course Rancid. I’m pretty sure my kid has a crush on Tim Armstrong and she never even saw him in his prime. The girl has good taste though. He is a talented musician, artist and all around good human for doing all he does to help young bands grow and keep punk rock alive. The kids got so excited up front that they caved in the barricade and Rancid had to take a break while security got it fixed. The good thing about this is we got to do a little single along acoustic with Tim and make friends with our neighbors in the crowd, who were all fun and respectful of each other. My daughter and an intoxicated 30 year old made fast friends singing and dancing all night. There was even a little mini punk rocker in the pit with his dad having fun. This was also the night that we stopped by the Punk Rock Saves Lives booth to chat about their organization. They were swabbing people to donate bone marrow, which I am already on the list for, but it was great to learn more about their organization and how they help in their community. Mental health is one of their platforms and as a mental health professional, working with adolescents struggling with self-esteem, peer pressure, drug and alcohol exposure, social media and hormones, I wanted to hear how they are helping. They are a great organization, making positive changes in communities, and I couldn’t agree more with the statement that punk rock saves lives. It saved mine for sure.
Day three was a lot of me dragging my family around to see bands they didn’t care about seeing, like L7 and Agnostic Front until Dropkick Murphys played and brought the house down. I did get to show my daughter the difference between a punk rock pit that’s fun and safe and a hardcore pit full of dudes with anger issues that she should avoid getting close to during Agnostic Front’s set. I had not seen Dropkick Murphys live, and they blew me away. Ken Casey is a force to be reconned with and the band is full of talent from bagpipes to strings. Ken does a lot of talking between songs which I love and we learned that he was going to be a special ed teacher before punk rock sucked him in full time. We were lucky enough to get a view of some of the artwork being auctioned off by their Claddagh Fund earlier in the day and he shared that over $14,000 was raised to help addicts make their way to treatment centers that weekend. You gotta love that a bunch of people passed up the beer tent to buy art and help someone in need. Another great example of punk rock saving lives.
I was surprised at how well my kid held up over the four days in Vegas. She didn’t complain much or get herself worked into a little anxious ball like she tends to do with new things. She rolled with the punches and had a good time. She met new weirdos who accepted her with open arms, with all her awkward tweeness, and she danced and sang along with abandon. I expect in a few years I’ll have to drag her out of the pit when it’s time to leave, but I was happy she wanted to hang out with us and that she still stole my shoes to wear herself instead of being embarrassed by them. She even asked if we could come back next year. I told her as long as the Interrupters are playing….
**It took me over a month to write this because in that month we lost a cat, gained a cat and sold our house. It’s been a month, but I’ve been listening to a lot of punk rock to keep me sane – mostly this: