“Apparently after 4 p.m., this show became all ages… Fuck you, kids!” So shouted Fat Mike, bassist and primary contrarian personality for NOFX. He’s also the force behind the Punk In Drublic Festival that rolled back through Sacramento, capping off a day full of onstage banter revealing that the pendulum has swung — punk is no longer a young person’s genre.
Similar acknowledgment of the advanced age of those performing came from bands Teenage Bottlerocket and Reel Big Fish, as well. And maybe that’s to be expected with a lineup full of bands that have been active since the ’90s and early 2000s – though both The Vandals and NOFX have been playing since the early 1980s.
While most on the players are much closer to the age of senior discounts than that of high school detentions, the bands that played this year’s festival did not lack for energy as they stirred up the crowd on Saturday, Oct. 19. As each each Punk In Drublic Fest does, the event opened with dozens of local craft brewer tents set on the festival grounds serving unlimited fill ups of free beer. Come 4 p.m., the brewers pack up and get outta there, while the bands begin taking the stage.
And while more than a couple of the 21-and-older crowd who came for the beer could be seen napping in the outer areas of Papa Murphy’s Park for the next couple hours, most rushed for the barricades for the afternoon of bands that straddled the catchier side of punk. Reel Big Fish were the brunt of the ska jokes that were as constant as the old age jokes over the course of the day.
Teenage Bottlerocket took the stage first. At this point, they could be called the old school of the new school. Having been a band since 2000, they have a finely polished new school sound, and their incessant touring brings a refinement to even their early songs.
During breaks between bands, the crowd could venture over to the Wheel of Misfortune booth, where the brave could pay to spin a wheel with BDSM-related “prizes” such as hot wax play, getting spanked with an electrically charged paddle, or a bondage massage. Fortunately, or unfortunately, no one happened to land the wheel on the “Actual Torture’” prize spot while we were watching, but there was a fair amount of cheers and audible groans coming from those watching and waiting their turn in line at the booth while those prizes were doled out to participants.
Reel Big Fish took the stage next, unleashing horns and jokes about the age of some of the songs they were playing. Though the band had a contingent of the crowd ballroom dancing in the back of the circle pit. Their set crescendoed in a cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me.”
While bands joked about the age of the crowd, many fans brought their kids with them. There were quite a few kids in the 5-8 year old range who could be seen hoisted on shoulders with headphones on.
The Vandals put on their typical energetic set of tongue-in-cheek songs about mullets, anarchy burgers and anti-racist Christmas carols. Guitar player Warren Fitzgerald wore a tennis ball green outfit and proceeded to bounce, twist and roll around onstage accordingly. The Vandals were the only band without any recent records, they did switch up their set a little bit by closing with Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” band pairing their absolutely capable musicianship with typical antics.
The musical highlight of the night, far and away, was Boston’s The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, a 9-piece band with a blazingly tight horn section, a hype man who kept the stage energy high, and singer Dicky Barrett’s well-practiced stage banter that still manages to come off absolutely sincere. The segues between songs were non-existent, thus making the Bosstones’ set one of non-stop energy. Songs like “The Constant” were made for a loud live performance with echoing organs and enveloping horns, and by the time the band finished with its biggest song, “The Impression That I Get,” there wasn’t anyone at the front of the stadium grounds who wasn’t singing out loud, dancing or waving their camera in the air.
But overall, the night belonged to NOFX. The band played a set list spanning their 35 years, joking about their age before playing “Fuck The Kids,” about themselves being Jewish, and about getting banned in the United States again.
At one point, Fat Mike offered a sincere comment about Rancid’s “Radio” having lyrics that captured how music can be such an important presence in someone’s life, only to have the rest of the band joke that they weren’t used to his sincerity launching into a reggae-tinged cover of the song. A handful of their songs came from their “Punk In Drublic” album, including the closer “Perfect Government,” whose writer Mark Curry was from Sacramento.
With yearly stops in Sacramento, the Punk In Drublic Festival consistently brings a best of the best of the previous era’s bands, when the style was at its height. Though with band members hitting their 50s, there is no irony lost in adding youth to the institutions that punks are against. But sarcasm aside, it was a great night and always a good chance to see a fest with such a solid lineup, especially as their golden years linger in the not-too-faraway distance.
— Shaun Astor