Las Vegas’ Punk Rock Bowling Festival brings new features, dozens of bands, and an eclipsing amount of feminine rage!

Kat Moss fronted Scowl through one of the fest’s most demolishing performances. Photos: Shaun Astor

Maybe one of the hardest details of putting on one of the West Coast’s largest punk festivals is keeping things fresh and not resorting to rehashing the same bands putting on a ‘greatest hits’ set year after year. After 24 years of Punk Rock Bowling, a three day festival in Las Vegas that includes hotel pool parties, club shows with secret lineups, and a main event at the outdoor Las Vegas Downtown Events Center with a dozen bands a day, this fest is taking the formula and continuing to add to it.

Of course there were the bands! Descendents whipped the crowd into a complete frenzy on night one where bodies sailing over the railing was a constant throughout their set. DEVO headlined the second night, and delivered a new set encompassing different songs than their other recent shows. British 10-piece two tone ska stalwarts Madness, performing in the US for the first time in 12 years, closed out the mainstage on the final night where the collective exhaust of three days in Vegas was nowhere in sight amidst a crowd that was dancing from the pit to the bleachers in back.

Headlining band Madness joked throughout their set of songs old and new.

With an attendance of 15,000, one thing that rises above is the unmistakable passion put into creating this event by the organizers. While the shows and parties are clearly the main draw here, there were additional events throughout the weekend including book signings, dozens of late night club shows, and film showings on activism and incendiary art from the group Indecline as well as a documentary about NYC early punk club Max’s Kansas City which showed in a theater on Fremont Street. For those not at the fest itself, it was possible to watch the outdoor festival bands via livestream.

The noticeable strength of the festival is that it pulls from all different sub genres of punk. From the early British wave of punk bands like 999 and Stiff Little Fingers to hardcore and post hardcore bands like Gorilla Biscuits, Madball and Quicksand, to ska bands like The English Beat, Catbite and the Skatalites, to the current wave of pummeling punk like The Chats, Niis and Die Spitz, the festival hosted a lineup of bands that mix current bands with bucket list performances.

Nick Cash of 999, formed in 1976, still believes in Homicide

Some moments the stuck out from this year’s Punk Rock Bowling Festival:

Billy Bragg played a set of radical folk music punctuated each song with a story. One of which was telling the crowd that he had never performed in Nevada before. He said on a past tour he had a several day gap between shows in Los Angeles and Texas, and made the choice to visit the Grand Canyon rather than Las Vegas, however his tour van hit an elk on the way to the Grand Canyon, which he took as a sign that he should’ve chosen Nevada…

Billy Bragg performance at Punk Rock Bowling 2024
Billy Bragg finally performs in Nevada…

Philadelphia ska band Catbite made the most of their early set time and cramming as many high energy songs into their shorter set length as they could. Their upbeat energy was perfect for the young kids in the crowd to come forward, sitting on shoulders, even dancing in a friendly mosh pit.

Brittany Luna of the Philadelphia ska punk band, Catbite, performs at the 2024 Punk Rock Bowling Music Festival
Catbite’s Brittany Luna stirs up the afternoon crowd.

British band Subhumans are debatably one of the most popularly known bands from punk’s 1980’s era, and may be even larger today than during their prime years. The band played a set mixing songs from throughout their eras, though the opening bass lines for their song “No” led to a singalong resonating from throughout the entire Event Center area.

British punk band, Subhmans, fronted by Dick Lucas, played a set of songs from throughout their years at Punk Rock Bowling concert
Dick Lucas and Subhumans got the entire venue shouting along

While the Punk Rock Bowling stages are often the place of bands making jokes about the advancing ages of the performers and crowds in attendance, that talk seemed to be missing this year. Instead, it was impossible not to notice that much of the spotlight was stolen by the female fronted bands that crushed the fest. Santa Cruz based hardcore band Scowl hit the stage like a wrecking ball and kept the energy level up non stop throughout their set, pausing only for singer Kat Moss to tell the story of how she had first attended the fest as a fan years ago and how genuinely nervous, excited and appreciative the band was to be playing the fest for the first time.

Los Angeles based group, Niis, put on a set of absolutely pummeling punk. Texas group Die Spitz wreathed and slithered their brand of grimy club rock across the stage. And Catbite’s set was infectiously danceable. Starcrawler ended their set with a cover of Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” that saw the guitar climbing the scaffolding before jumping into the pit while playing. And while someone peering it takes skimming about halfway down the official lineup poster before catching the name of any of the female fronted bands, these groups left some of the most memorable moments of the fest.

Approaching their 25th year as an event, the passion from those putting on Punk Rock Bowling, as well as continuing to innovate while mixing the best of all styles of the music are what set this festival far apart from anything else like it on the West Coast. And while the secret to surviving three days of the Las Vegas festival is pacing yourself, the energy level and sheer number of events from morning til following morning made that nearly impossible, but absolutely worth it…

Some photos from 2024 Punk Rock Bowling:

Crowd moshing at Las Vegas Punk Rock Bowling Music Festival, 2024
That banana was in every single pit for every single band!
Post hardcore band Quicksand play live at Punk Rock Bowling
Quicksand perform.
Starcrawler’s Arrow de Wilde reaching the mic to the audience.
Gorilla Biscuits’ frontman Civ at the barricade.
Kat Moss and Scowl were one of the fest’s highlights.
The crowd awaits De-Evolution.
DEVO’s got an uncontrollable urge.
Mark Mothersbaugh and DEVO headline Punk Rock Bowling.
“Are we not men?”
Mimi Doe of Niis was one of the weekend’s most pummeling sets.
Freddy Cricien of New York hardcore band Madball
Nick Cash of British first wave punk band, 999
Nick Cash of 999
Catbite
Alexia Roditis of Destroy Boys starts the non-binary pit
Descendents headlined night 1 of Punk Rock Bowling
It’s not all old folks at the punk fest
Lee Thompson and Suggs of Madness
Dick Lucas of Subhmans still raging after 45 years
Welcome Bowlers

Stay updated at PunkRockBowling.com

-Shaun Astor, Priscilla Acosta

ABOUT Shaun Astor

Picture of Shaun Astor
Shaun Astor cites pop music singers and social deviants as being among his strongest influences. His vices include vegan baking, riding a bicycle unreasonable distances and fixating on places and ideas that make up the subject of the sentence, "But that’s impossible…" He splits his time between Reno and a hammock perched from ghost town building foundations. Check out his work at www.raisethestakeseditions.com

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