November 11, 2021 | Festival Review by Rachael Contreras
The long-anticipated Punk in the Park festival finally happened this past weekend! With Saturday completely sold out and Sunday at near capacity, the weekend festival was in full swing with everything that makes a punk rock festivals glorious.
There were food options galore! You want pizza? A spiral potato on a stick? Pulled pork nachos? Bratwurst? They had it all! The bar tents were plentiful around the park and offered just a few kinds of beer, soda, Liquid Death water, and one kind of hard cider, but no hard liquor.
If you scored a VIP ticket, you had access to a special area with a mobile, indoor bathroom that included light, mirrors, and running water from a faucet. This might not sound like much, but when that sun shines down and you have to rely on touch to get your way around a pitch-black porta potty, the VIP bathroom is a godsend.
Saturday started off with Hilltop Rats on the main stage to an already-growing crowd of people wanting to start their free all-you-can-drink beer and hard cider tasting. Next came Raptors as the first band on the second stage, or Monster Stage. By the time Jughead’s Revenge took the main stage, the parking lot and venue were packed with sweaty punkers wanting to hear Jughead’s first new song in 20 years, “American Jesters.” This was the first time they’ve played in about five years and they blasted the stage away!
Standing still in the direct sun was no bueno, but it did not matter when Chaser played, “See You at the Show” and singer Mike LeDonne crowd surfed with the mic. This led seamlessly into The Bombpops’ set, where they played fan favorites and got the crowd psyched for the special guest filling in for Pulley on the Monster Stage.
But first was The Last Gang on the Monster Stage with “Noise, Noise, Noise”, “Sing for Your Super” and so many more! Next were the Riverboat Gamblers that rocked the main stage.
The special, super-secret guest band was none other than ska-punk masters Voodoo Glow Skulls! When front-man Efrem Schulz jumped up on stage with his iconic Mexican wrestling mask and bright orange striped poncho, the crowd went nuts! This brought a big crowd of the day to the Monster Stage and the band played favorites “Shoot the Moon,” “Charlie Brown,” “Insubordination,” and their newest hit, “Livin’ the Apocalypse” to an appreciative crowd.
T.S.O.L. started immediately after Voodoo and in usual form, front-man Jack Grisham transfixed the crowd with this soothing deep voice and old-school punk lyrics. With his humor and impeccable timing, T.S.O.L. engaged with the crowd. They finished off their set with “Code Blue,” which is always a fan favorite despite its unique subject matter.
Right after T.S.O.L.’s final note, Guttermouth started on the Monster Stage and in true fashion, singer Mark Adkins roamed the stage like Willy Wonka in his chocolate factory. He told inappropriate jokes (no surprise if you’ve listened to any of Guttermouth’s lyrics) and joked about his poor credit score while the crowd ballooned out.
By now the free tastings had ended and the sun was starting to set. People were trading their sunglasses for their jackets and starting to line up for dinner, all while trying to hold it together after the amount of free beer and cider tastings were setting in.
Fear played the main stage just as dusk set and Jimmy Briggs from The Aquabats joined on saxophone for “New York’s Alright if You Like Saxophones,” and they ended their set with their celebrated song, “Let’s Have a War.”
This was actually the first down time between band sets, so while fans waited anxiously for Lagwagon, they took this time to eat, use the facilities, catch up with old friends, and make new friends. The sun had officially set and it was dark… really dark. You had to be extra careful when walking to make sure you didn’t trip on any holes or pesky rocks, which had caused a few skinned knees during the day. After what seemed like forever, Lagwagon took the stage and the crowd got excited when front-man Joey Cape came out with an acoustic guitar and started the intro to “Alien 8,” then pause as he switched to his electric guitar. The song ramped up and the mosh pit went crazy!
After Lagwagon, we patiently waited for The Vandals and they came on with a bang! They played “I’ve Got an Ape Drape,” “Urban Struggle,” “Live Fast, Diarrhea” and other favorites “Oi to the World,” and “Anarchy Burger.” After Warren Fitzgerald climbed onto the drum kit and shook his booty, they finished their set with “I Had a Date” while Fitzgerald finished the song off by swirling the microphone by the cord like a helicopter.
Finally, the moment everyone had been waiting for, Pennywise. The quartet took the stage and opened with “Living for Today.” They went straight into other hits like “Stand by Me” (even with a lyrical snafu by front man Jim Lindberg), “Society,” and other faves like “Blitzkrieg Bop” (Ramones cover), “Fight For Your Right” (Beastie boys cover), and “Fuck Authority.” Of course they ended the night with “Bro Hymn.” The stage was packed with friends and family of the band, so they swarmed the stage and the band for a great sendoff.
Punk in the Park (day two) was just as exciting. It started with Sidekick on the Monster Stage as patrons walked in, and continued to the main stage with New York band, MakeWar. La Pobreska (a Spanish ska band) brought so much energy to the Monster Stage with Zebrahead’s guitarist, Dan Palmer, filling in.
Get Dead played the main stage with their hit “Fire Sale” and others. Old-school popular punk band D.I. graced the Monster Stage and played a version of The Adolescents’ “Ameoba,” and many more hits.
Left Alone, fronted by guitarist Elvis Cortez, was also engaged with the crowd as they played hits “Mile High,” “Sad Story,” and “Hate the Day.” By this time, the crowd was plentiful and it was mosh pits galore even for this third wave ska-punk band.
The Monster Stage brought something extra special; the first appearance of Ignite with their new lead singer, Eli Santana. They played “Bleeding,” “Let it Burn,” and new song, “Anti Complicity Anthem,” then finished off with “Veteran.” Teenage Bottle Rocket was next on the main stage with “Skate or Die” and more.
Authority Zero came straight from playing a gig in Alaska to be on the Monster Stage with their hit “Revolution,” and new song, “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free.” To say the crowd was enthusiastic about their performance would be an understatement! All the moshers, punk rockers and crowd surfers had ear-to-ear grins while mouthing the lyrics. It was a great sight to witness!
Strung Out hit the stage and played their loved song “Matchbook,” and a few others with a giant banner behind them. The sun was setting and lighting was perfect! Right after them was the final band to play this stage, The Dickies. It was rad to see these old-school punk bands still rocking after all these years, with all the excitement they put in these songs so many years ago.
The Bouncing Souls came in from New Jersey to play their set, which included “Here We Go,” “True Believers,” and finished with their great song, “Gone.” A well-suited name considering we had a pause in bands for a few minutes.
Right on schedule, you could see a guy in a yellow suit with a ukulele with long gold streamers hanging off his mic stand. It was Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies front-man, Spike Slawson, and he opened their set alone by playing, “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.” This grew to the rest of the band joining him on stage and jamming to fun covers like Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” Fat Mike had to excuse himself from the stage to go get ready for the NOFX set that was coming up next, but CJ Ramone took his place on stage and went right in to “I’ll Survive,” “Sweet Caroline,” and “Who Put the Bomp.”
The music between songs slowly turned into “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and eventually you could see members of NOFX get on stage and start dancing to the song. NOFX had some banter, then started playing “Stickin in My Eye,” “Six Years on Dope,” “Leave it Alone,” and “Franco Un-American.” Eric Melvin and Fat Mike switched on and off as the lead singer for this set.
Now that all is said and done, we are on the backside of one of the biggest punk events that OC has seen in many years. We have had a few hard months and hurdles to get past, but this festival is proof that if done right, together we can accomplish anything and keep our bands, stages, crews and music moving forward. Hats off and much respect to the staff at Brew Ha Ha who pulled off another epic event!