This year’s Punk in the Park started with the welcomed site of an open street and moving lanes in the parking lot. It was at this moment I knew it was going to be a fantastic weekend.
Walking in through the fast-moving entrance line to get to the free beer and cider/seltzer tastings was simple enough. Going in and seeing the animal art installation photo op with a “Don’t Fuck the Animals” sign meant this weekend was going to be like no other. The Monster Energy stage was right in front, facing Vendor Village, while the half pipe was up against the back of it, playing its own music. Weirdly the music didn’t cross contaminate and the acoustics were great.
Getting through the park when the doors opened – before the bulk of the crowd got there – was nice. We saw the layout in a way that looks very different when it’s filled with people. The main stage was close to the second stage, so walking to and from would not cause any interruption in watching the bands.
There were so many notable performances, and everyone seemed at the top of their game. As the day wore on, it just kept getting better and better!
Once Suicide Machines hit the stage, the crowd was thick and the hot sun started to go down behind the stage. Front-man Jason Navarro sang while holding a drink and waving it in the air to the crowd.
At one point, he made it down to the crowd and let a fan sing the chorus of “High Anxiety,” something no other band seemed to do during the festival.
The Dickies hopped on stage and started out with “Nights in White Satin,” The Moody Blues cover.
Having just celebrated Halloween, they didn’t sing “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” like some fans were requesting, but they played all their great hits just the same, including the Black Sabbath cover of “Paranoid,” and ending with “Gigantor” to finish off the Buenaveza Stage (second stage) for the night.
By the time GBH started, the sun was down and everyone was putting on jackets and trying to find each other in the dark. Fatigue was starting to set in from the long day, and fans were starting to sit or lay down on the lawn; some even wore glow sticks so they could easily be found.
GBH front-man Colin Abrahall made some huge jumps onstage, which made for great photos for the crowd.
All the great music didn’t stop fans from going to watch the riders on the half pipe, including skateboarders Steve Caballero (making the Vans shoe “Half Cab” famous), Bucky Lasek, Christian Hosoi, and Andy McDonald, and BMX rider Rick Thorne.
Featured in three different demos throughout both days, the riders kept the fans entertained with kick turns, fakies, board grabs, big air, twists, turns, and flips. Having these skate and BMX legends that helped shape the industry was simply breath taking!
Next onstage were Circle Jerks. Once, front-man Keith Morris and bassist Zander Schloss pointed at each other to keep each other going harder and they did.
During “Wild in the Streets,” the circle pit was going so fast it nearly blew back Morris’ knee-length dreadlocks. Circle Jerks have been blowing our ear drums out since 1979, but they proved time has stood still for them and they rock out just as great as year one!
Rounding out the night was Hermosa Beach’s own, Pennywise. Pennywise has headlined Punk in the Park before, but they are like comfort food for your ears. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen them; you are going to rock out no matter what.
Introduced by Brew Ha Ha head honcho and beer connoisseur, Cameron Collins and Steve Van Doren of Punk in the Park sponsor, Vans Shoes, Pennywise front-man Jim Lindberg took the mic.
Jumping right in to “Fight till You Die” with “Homeless” immediately following, the Pennywise setlist featured mostly songs off their ‘90s and early ‘00s albums.
At this point, the circle pit was complete dust and it was almost hard to see the band clearly through the thicker air, but it was all worth it when Pennywise started their beloved cover of “Stand by Me.”
Originally off their first album in 1991, this rarity song is a fan favorite. In true form, they ended their set with “Bro Hymn,” and the stage flooded with smiling fans from the audience and sides of the stage.
The next day was filled with warm sun, people lining up to get their free taste-testers, and fans buying the merch they didn’t pull the trigger on the day before.
I wondered how many people would be there with hangovers, sunburns (like myself), or blisters from their new Punk in the Park themed Vans (always break them in before a festival, kids!). To my surprise, not many people seemed to fit that bill, which was a good thing.
It seemed to be warmer on this day, so when Throwrag came out in full rockabilly suits, it was surprising it didn’t slow them down from working the sun-ridden stage as it began its descent for the evening.
Fans huddled around the Buenaveza Stage for The Queers and they seemed to meet every expectation… and then some! If you are a regular of The Queers, it wouldn’t surprise you that they started their set with the fun, catchy song “No Tit.”
Later, Ray Carlisle of Teenage Bottle Rocket took to the stage to help sing the fan favorite Ramones cover, “KKK Took My Baby Away.”
Eventually, they sang the song that seemed to bring the crowd to sing in unison, “See You Later Fuckface.”
Buzzcocks took to the main stage without skipping a beat. “What Do I Get,” “Orgasm Addict,” “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve’)” – they played all the classics.
Ending with “Harmony in My Head,” the crowd went crazy.
Staying for as long as they could before walking to the next stage in the dark, you knew no one wanted that set to be over.
Headlining the second stage was Dwarves. The crowd came out from the woodwork around the park for this set.
Watching Blag Dahlia move around the stage in his iconic cut-off red shirt and fingerless leather gloves, he sang “Back Seat of My Car,” “Let’s Fuck,” and introduced the song “Salt Lake City” calling it, “a song I wrote in my favorite city.”
They closed off the set with “We Will Dare Together” co-sung with Madd Lucas.
Goldfinger’s crowd was huge. Probably the biggest of the night. Fans were stuffed in each corner trying to get as close to the stage as possible in hopes that they might catch a glimpse of a possible skateboarding co-singer for “Superman.”
They opened with “Spokesman” and went on to “Counting the Days.” Front-man John Feldmann dedicated their cover of “Story of My Life” to Mike Ness of Social Distortion, saying it was his all-time favorite band.
They even had the horn section from Reel Big Fish. In the middle of the six-minute version of “Here in Your Bedroom,” rhythm guitarist Moon Valjean announced that it was his birthday and the following day was bassist Mike Herrera’s b-day (Herrera is also the front man for MXPX).
Ending their set with “99 Red Balloons,” Feldmann even sang a verse in its original form of German, which impressed the crowd to no end.
Although there was no guest singer for the final song, “Superman,” their set was great and they really engaged the massive crowd, which left smiles on everyone’s faces.
Finally, the headliner of the night and final act, Descendents. Front-man Milo Aukerman hopped on stage wearing his punk rock hydro flask strapped around his chest for easy hydration access. Watching him open their act with “Everything Sux,” you would never guess he had open-heart surgery a few months ago; he was just as loud and aggressive and entertaining as ever.
D E S C E N D E N T S
Descendents played all the major hits and then some – almost 30 songs!
Fans had started to lose their mojo from the long day, but something arose in the crowd during “Coffee Mug” and the circle pit got moving again, not stopping until the end of the final song, “Smile.” It was an appropriate final song as it left everyone smiling as they walked out to their cars for the evening.
Every year we think this Orange County festival can’t get any better, and then it does.
The new layout, the additional stage, the Vans half-pipe and its riders all proved this year was the best yet, but we just know Brew Ha Ha Productions will outdo themselves next year… which only leaves us wanting more!