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Back in the ‘90s, punk-rock fans looked forward to the Warped Tour every year.

Today … not so much. The Warped Tour has evolved and no longer features such an emphasis on punk—and that’s where the It’s Not Dead festival comes in.

On Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Glen Helen Amphitheater in San Bernardino, the second version of the festival took place. Unlike the Warped Tour, the It’s Not Dead festival is a one-day affair—and attendees have to make some tough scheduling decisions. Everyone who is someone in punk rock fills the lineup, and the main stage features most of the best bands, meaning it’s hard to break away to see some of the bands on other stages.

Shortly after the festival opened, Warped Tour/It’s Not Dead founder Kevin Lyman appeared on the main stage, talked briefly for a moment and mentioned that the large stage rotated. One side was named the Gary Tovar Stage, after Goldenvoice founder Gary Tovar, and the other side was called the Gabby Gaborno Stage, named after the late Cadillac Tramps front man who passed away after a tough battle with cancer earlier this year. Lyman introduced the first act—Wraths, featuring Pennywise vocalist Jim Lindberg.

Wraths kicked ass—but many attendees hadn’t yet arrived or were in the parking lot tailgating, meaning they missed one hell of a show. Lindberg’s stage presence and intensity, which has made Pennywise great, was also present in Wraths. Toward the end of the set, Lindberg said the band didn’t know what to play, given they had only recorded a handful of songs and had five minutes left.

The Interrupters, a Los Angeles ska punk band that continues to grow in popularity, played after Wraths, as the crowd size continued to grow. The 100-plus-degree temps didn’t stop the Bivona brothers from wearing their signature white dress shirts, black ties and black pants, while frontwoman Aimee Interrupter was dressed all in black. The Interrupters put out a lot of positive energy, and most of the crowd was dancing, or slam-dancing in the mosh pit. Kevin Bivona declared that It’s Not Dead is his favorite festival, and that he hopes they come back in the future.

After skate-punk band Good Riddance put on a solid and energetic set, GBH followed—like a shot of adrenaline, which led to an even larger mosh pit. The members of the English street punk outfit that formed in the late 1970s might have appeared old, but they were intense. Vocalist Colin Abrahall declared that they were angry old men (in less appealing terms), and their set was brutal. I saw one attendee in a wheelchair go crowd-surfing—but his wheel chair tipped forward, launching him out of it. It wasn’t long before the guy was back in his wheelchair and rocking out on the security barrier.

Later in the day, former Black Flag frontman Keith Morris and his band OFF! put on a fantastic set. He took some time to talk about how he remembered coming to the Glen Helen Amphitheater in the ’90s for OzzFest, saying that the parking lot tailgating resembled what was shown in the ’80s documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and adding a story about a young woman who said she needed to give blow jobs in the parking lot in order to pay for her ticket.

As early evening set in, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes took the stage dressed in disco outfits. Missing were two regulars—NOFX bassist Fat Mike and Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett—with Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley and Face to Face guitarist Scott Shiflett taking their places. Frontman Spike Slawson sounded like he was calling San Bernardino “San Berdina” when he addressed the audience, and he was full of amusing anecdotes, including one about how he had the hots for some guy who also had the hots for him, and that they were busted in a park “finger banging.” One of the highlights of their covers-filled set was Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”

I decided to venture over to the adjoining Fender stages to catch headlining performances by the U.S. Bombs and Voodoo Glow Skulls. Duane Peters of the U.S. Bombs has received a lot of negative attention as of late due to … well, being Duane Peters. He’s made controversial posts on social media as of late, saying that Tony Hawk was involved in a conspiracy relating to his late son’s death after a car accident, insulting local pro-skateboarder Eddie Elguera, and using homophobic slurs. When the U.S. Bombs went onstage, Duane Peters required the aid of a cane, but quickly put it aside when he began to sing. The U.S. Bombs performed well, but Duane seemed to struggle a bit through the set.

Riverside punk-ska legends Voodoo Glow Skulls have also endured some recent social media controversy, after now-former frontman Frank Casillas reportedly began making pro-Trump posts—upsetting the other two Casillas brothers, bandmates Eddie and Jorge. After Frank Casillas declared during a recent show that he was retiring from the band—an announcement which came as a surprise to the rest of the band—the remaining members recruited Death by Stereo frontman Efrem Schulz to finish out the tour. Voodoo Glow Skulls took the stage to a very large and welcoming audience, and Schulz’s stage presence was extremely high energy. The fans loved it.

Dropkick Murphys and Rancid brought their co-headlining tour to a close on Saturday night at It’s Not Dead. The first quarter of the Murphys’ hour-long set was all older material from their first two albums, including “Barroom Hero,” followed by “Do or Die,” “Never Alone,” “Boys on the Docks,” and “The Gang’s All Here.” The band always delivers a great set, and Rancid’s performance was just as good.

Beyond the music, the festival included a tent featuring artwork, photography and … books? Yes, books. In fact, Jim Lindberg did a book signing in the tent in the afternoon, as did Keith Morris of OFF! and Jack Grisham of TSOL.

“To actually be able to talk to the people that read your books, it’s cool,” Grisham said. “It’s the same thing to me as music. If they read the book and they enjoy it, it means we have a connection. We probably connected somewhere else down the line. I actually like to meet the people who like what I do.”

One of the more interesting selections for sale on Grisham’s table was a children’s book, I Wish There Were Monsters, which was written and illustrated by Grisham.

“It’s about a kid who has all this bravado and wants to fight all these monsters, and talking about all these monsters he wants to fight,” Grisham explained. “At the end of it, he says, ‘Hey, I wish there were monsters, just not tonight.’ He cuddles up in his bed with a cat. It was fun to do something that was laid back, and when I wrote it, it was never planned for release. I wrote it for my kids. I would just Xerox copies and hand them to friends.”

Published in Reviews

If you’ve never heard of punk-rock cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, you’re missing out on a lot of hilarity.

The San Francisco-based band is fronted by Spike Slawson, of the Swingin’ Utters, who is normally joined by Fat Mike, of NOFX, on bass; Chris Shiflett, of the Foo Fighters, on lead guitar; Joey Cape, of Lagwagon, on rhythm guitar; and Dave Raun, also of Lagwagon, on drums. The band has released some hilarious themed albums, including 2006’s Love Their Country, featuring country songs—covered punk-style, of course.

At It’s Not Dead 2, frontman Spike Slawson was dressed as if he was going to a disco, with white pants and a gold microphone. During an interview, he explained where the band gets its inspiration for albums.

“It’s generally Fat Mike (has an idea), and then we end up chasing our tails to meet some unrealistic expectation or standard,” Slawson said. “I think what we need to do, and what we’re probably going to do, is some 7-inch records here and there—do some AM gold or a German song. People aren’t selling records anymore, anyway, so a 7-inch is a good thing. It’s not super expensive, and people will buy it, and you have songs people are going to want to hear live.”

I made a suggestion that perhaps the band should make an ABBA-themed record.

“Sounds good, but there are already too many ABBA tribute bands,” he said. “That’s already been done, including one that a friend of mine, Chris Dodge of Spazz, put out. That (band was) Bjorn Again. They kinda did it more straight and dressed up, wearing wigs and disco outfits. But I don’t know; we’ll try anything once, as evidenced by our body of work.”

Slawson said that his favorite album is 1999’s Are a Drag, which was the band’s show tunes album.

“It was fun to dress up for it, and I like the way the songs came out,” he said. “I also like the production aesthetic of the record.”

At It’s Not Dead, two of the band’s normal members—Fat Mike and Chris Shiflett—were not present. Slawson explained the absences and the substitutions.

“Mr. Jay Bentley of Bad Religion will be joining us on the bass guitar,” he said. “Sir Scott Shiflett is on lead guitar, and he’s a very accomplished guitar player, so no worries there. It’s pretty much all the Gimmes who you know and love. As long as they know what they’re doing and play the set instead of playing with themselves, it always works out. Chris can usually never do it because he’s always busy. Mike is busy as well. So we work it out.”

Slawson said he enjoys being in a band with Fat Mike.

“I don’t have a word to describe it, but it’s interesting. I’ll put it this way: Ever since this ’90s (punk) resurgence, it’s gotten really white and middle class, and he kind of did a back-turn and flipped that,” Slawson said. “He was kind of one of the figureheads of the middle-class punk movement where everything sounds like it’s a fucking Toyota commercial, and he’s not living that kind of life anymore. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming, but I just see it for what it is—it’s rock ’n’ roll.”

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are planning another live record in the near future.

“We were talking about doing a live record at a quinceañera, just like we did with Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah,” he said, mentioning the band’s 2004 album. “(We’ll make it) more likely down here, though. We have them up in San Francisco, for sure, but they’re always bigger with so many more people down here.” 

I mentioned to Slawson that the Coachella Valley just might be the place for the album, given the quinceañeras here can even run all night.

“Really? Wow. Well, I figure there’s also Orange County, Los Angeles County or Ventura County, but yeah. In someone’s yard or something—I think that would be funny. We can learn and play a bunch of Spanish songs.”

In the 30 years of Guttermouth’s existence, frontman Mark Adkins has constantly had his middle finger raised up high in response to political correctness—and given the current political climate, the band is as relevant as ever.

Guttermouth will be performing at the It’s Not Dead Festival at Glen Halen Amphitheater in San Bernardino on Saturday, Aug. 26. Headliners include Rancid and Dropkick Murphys.

Legendary punk band The Dickies recently faced an angry mob of attendees at a Warped Tour stop, where they were labeled as “misogynists” for stage antics that included a penis puppet. Guttermouth went through a similar incident at a Warped Tour stop in 2004, causing the band to leave the tour.

“Political correctness has reached the punk-rock scene, and it’s just gone so awry and so rampant,” Adkins said during a phone interview. “That’s a shame, that everyone is so far to the left that you can’t even speak your mind. I think we’re in a very sad situation, not just in punk rock, but the real world in general. You can’t tell someone how you feel about what’s going on in the world, even if it’s tongue in cheek. … That’s not a country I want to live in, pal.”

Adkins said both the right and the left have taken things to the extreme, and that punk music is not the same as it used to be.

“It seems to be that the whole punk community has gone so far left—not entirely, given there are a few survivors out there, and guys on the right who pretend they’re on the left so they can be in the punk club. Punk or not, it is 2017. I never thought this music would be going for so long, but the way it has been going on, it’s not really punk music anymore to me. It is what it is.”

Guttermouth just released a new record, The Whole Enchilada. It is the first Guttermouth record in 10-plus years. The albums followed two EPs released in 2016.

“We did stop recording for a while, but we’ve kicked that back into high gear,” he said. “We stopped making records for over 10 years. We released our first EP a year ago, and then we released our second EP that did far better and actually charted on the Billboard alternative chart. Some people were telling me, ‘Pennywise has a new record’ or ‘Rancid has a new record,’ and I’m like, ‘What? How am I supposed to know this?’ I’m not a 5-year-old sitting in front of a computer screen hoping to hear from bands I like. I have better things to do, like be alive and go outside and do something productive. I will say this: I think Internet marketing doesn’t work.”

Adkins said Guttermouth’s 10-year recording hiatus came for a good reason.

“We wanted to see where the dust was settling (after) the crushing blow of the collapse of the CD and the take-off of the Internet,” he said. “We didn’t want to just keep putting stuff out, screwing ourselves and other people, because they’ll never hear it. Now people subscribe to Pandora, Spotify and things like that, and we kind of waited for that. Some labels settled in as being productive labels and had their reach in certain areas, and we waited for that, and the time was right.”

These days, Adkins views touring more positively than he once did.

“I appreciate the places I’m going travel-wise,” he said. “I get out and see more stuff when I’m out on the road instead of just going out and getting shit-faced. Now I’m checking stuff out, meeting people and hanging out. I like to sell our own merchandise these days, not because I’m too cheap to pay someone, but hanging out backstage is boring. It’s the same people, the same faces and the same attitude. I get to meet people from all walks of life and from all over the planet. I’ve learned lots of things and get to share experiences. I get a lot out of that.”

Guttermouth was once banned from touring in Canada due to “charges of indecency.” However, the band may soon return to the country.

“I’ve tried to stay away from that story so many times, but right now, I’m gearing up for a Canadian tour,” he said when asked about the Canada ban. “Because I’ve done everything they wanted me to do (to be) legit, now they want a piece of paper showing proof that there were never any charges filed, and there was a stay of execution—NEVER any charges filed. They want to see that, even though it’s on their computer. Even after I called the court where I was supposedly in trouble, I called the police department where I was in trouble, and I called their version on the FBI—and they all told me the same thing: ‘No problem. You did nothing wrong, and you don’t have a record.’ But I have to prove it in order to go back in. … They said, ‘You have to come up here and get your paperwork,’ and I told them, ‘I can’t. You won’t let me come in.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh boy, we do have a problem then.’ So I’m dealing with that right now. I did get kicked out of the country, but I had a good attorney, and it was money well spent. They never even pressed charges against me.”

Adkins laughed when asked about playing at the Glen Halen Amphitheater.

“That’s the same venue I got busted in, in 1995. Guess what happened there? No charges filed,” he said. “But it cost me a fucking fortune: bail, get out of jail, and you are guilty until proven innocent.

“I don’t care what anyone says. All these stories make me out to be a worse guy than I really am, but I don’t have a fucking record at all! I’m really surprised they’re letting us back there, and it’s my pleasure to come back. It’ll be cool, and I’m excited that we were invited.”

The It’s Not Dead Festival takes place at noon, Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Glen Halen Amphitheater, 2575 Glen Halen Parkway, in San Bernardino. Tickets are $42.50. For tickets or more information, visit www.itsnotdeadfestival.com.

Published in Previews