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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

Radiohead’s Weekend 1 Coachella performance was, by all accounts, a disaster.

That was on everybody’s mind as the Friday headliner prepared to take the stage for Weekend 2.

I wasn’t at Coachella last weekend, but I certainly heard about the sound issues, intense audio feedback and other problems that forced the band off stage twice during the set.

Also … the band played “Creep” last weekend—a song the group almost never plays. Was it planned for the set list, or was it added as a consolation for fans who braved the technical difficulties?

I may never get the answer to that last question, but all of my other queries and concerns were washed away: Radiohead’s Weekend 2 performance was fantastic.

Ambient and atmospheric sounds emanated from giant poles, with speakers positioned throughout the Main Stage crowd area, before the band took the stage; it reminded me of Roger Waters’ Desert Trip performance. Speakers like this can really complement sound effects—or make a band’s sound schizophrenic.

Radiohead took the stage with a surprising lack of visuals: The video walls to the left and were not on, and a large round oval—visible as a non-operational backdrop throughout the entire day—remained non-operational. (This is called foreshadowing, kids!) During the first two songs—“Daydreaming” and “Desert Island Disk”—the only visual effects were lights shining upward on the stage.

Then came “Ful Stop,” the third song—where all the problems started last week. Suddenly, visuals on the sides of the stage started—and the aforementioned large, round oval in the background came to life.

It was like a cosmic blast.

The speakers throughout the field in the Main Stage area began to add layers and little noises to Radiohead’s music. Thom Yorke was energetic, although he avoided conversation with the audience, other than quipping that Radiohead was ready for a residency in Las Vegas.

While the Weekend 2 crowd didn’t get to hear “Creep,” we were treated to “Fake Plastic Trees,” another song the band almost never plays live.

Radiohead’s Friday night set was indeed a beautiful thing, and Weekend 2 attendees—who tend to be more of a music-aficionado crowd than the Weekend 1 group—left the Empire Polo Club on Friday night quite happy.

Other Friday highlights

• Local band Kayves absolutely rocked the Gobi tent. A nice crowd came to catch a glimpse of the band, which was received well. I had to laugh when Nick Hernandez explained that Kayves was on Spotify; this led a man to scream, “WHERE ARE YOU FROM!?” Alas, his shout went unheard by the band.

• The Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s second appearance at Coachella was also well-received—which, considering the group was performing traditional jazz, was a beautiful thing. The group played some material from its new album, So It Is, and praised the crowd for “getting (their) asses out of bed early” to see them—even though it was after 3 p.m.

• King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (say that 10 times fast!) is a psychedelic rock band that includes elements of garage rock and metal. Also … I swear there’s a touch of Indian music for which Ravi Shankar was so famous—even though nobody plays sitar in that band. Anyway, the band turned in a fantastic afternoon set, while saying that the band’s Weekend 2 crowd was better than last week’s group. Pretty far out, man.

• The Interrupters performed an energetic, upbeat and wildly fun performance in the new, punk-and-garage-leaning Sonora Tent during the early evening—one of several new additions to Coachella this year that boosted capacity to a whopping 125,000 people. (Good news: The tent’s air-conditioned. Bad news: It looks like Nickelodeon threw up in there.) The Interrupters gained a huge mosh pit and knowledgeable fans who knew the lyrics to the songs—screaming along with Aimee Interrupter. At the end of the performance, guitarist Kevin Bivona told the crowd he wanted some audience participation, and asked if anyone knew how to play guitar. In response, a guy got up onstage; when asked what his name was, he replied “Tim” in a gruff voice, before a crew member handed him a worn-down black Gretsch guitar. That not-so-random audience member: Tim Armstrong of Rancid, who played two songs with the group and then went back into the crowd, where he took selfies with attendees who couldn’t believe what had just happened.

Photo credits (below): Kayves, by Julian Bajsel/Goldenvoice; King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, by Charles Reagan Hackleman/Goldenvoice; The Interrupters, by Everett Fitzpatrick/Goldenvoice.

Can a punk band have a serious message and still be a fun listen? The Interrupters have answered that question—with a resounding yes.

On Friday, April 14 and 21, the Los Angeles two-tone punk band will be making its Coachella debut.

Fronted by female vocalist Aimee Interrupter, the band also includes the Bivona brothers: Kevin (guitar), Justin (bass) and Jesse (drums). You may recognize Kevin Bivona; he is also a member of Transplants (with Tim Armstrong of Rancid and Travis Barker of Blink-182), and he played on Jimmy Cliff’s 2011 EP, Sacred Fire.

The Interrupters have addressed political subjects on the band’s first two albums. The 2014 song “Take Back the Power” includes the lyrics: “What’s your plan for tomorrow? Are you a leader or will you follow? Are you a fighter or will you cower? It’s our time to take back the power.” The 2016 track “She Got Arrested” addresses the subject of domestic violence.

During a recent phone interview, Kevin Bivona said that while the band addresses political subjects, it isn’t entirely political.

“I wouldn’t put (politics) first, because we’re musicians, and we’re a band, but we’re not politicians,” Bivona said. “Some of our songs are definitely politically charged, but not all of them. I think it’s a spectrum, and I think everyone is political to a certain degree. Maybe we are more political than some bands, but in our genre of punk rock, it’s actually pretty common to have a stance, at least. But not all of our songs are based around politics or government. (We also do songs about) any general injustices, general relationships with people, and standing up for yourself. Everybody is a little political, and we’re on the spectrum.”

Bivona was a professional musician long before helping form The Interrupters and has appeared on numerous albums by other artists. He said he tries to create a healthy balance with the other projects in which he takes part.

“It kind of balances itself out,” he said. “Being that we’ve been so lucky with the touring opportunities that we’ve gotten with The Interrupters lately, it’s been my primary focus. Sometimes, it works out where I can go do a couple dates with Rancid in between Interrupters tours. There hasn’t been anything conflicting yet, knock on wood. I kind of take each thing as it comes and just try not to get bombarded. It’s something I think about, though, having that kind of a balance.”

Last summer, The Interrupters played The Warped Tour. I asked him if he felt the current tour—founded on punk rock in the mid ’90s, and now primarily appealing to fans of pop-punk, Christian punk and metal bands—would make the average punk devotee feel out of place.

“It seems that way, genre-wise, when you look at it, but getting to know the founder, Kevin Lyman, throughout the summer and watching the way the whole organization works—it is the same tour as it was in 1997,” Bivona said. “I think the music has evolved and branched out into different areas, but there definitely still is a home for punk rock. … You’ll see more punk rock on that tour this year or next year, especially with the political climate the way it is. It’s always a good time when there’s a lot of protesting happening—it’s a good time for punk to bubble up again, because it never fully goes away.

“It is the same festival as it was, but the young people’s tastes have changed, and we’re trying to bring punk back. I think part of us playing last year was trying to build a bridge between old Warped Tour and new Warped Tour. We’re a new band, but we’re also very inspired by the original punk rock and ska. Being a new band helps bridge the two together. It was actually a lot of fun to do that tour, because it still has a very DIY punk ethic, and all the bands work together, no matter if they’re metal, pop-punk or techno. We all still have to wait in the same line to get food and get a shower.”

The Interrupters are signed with Hellcat Records, a label founded by Tim Armstrong of Rancid that is an offshoot of Epitaph Records, which was founded by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Bivona explained his love for the label.

“The best part for us was when we got our first pressing of our first album, and just seeing that Hellcat logo on there,” he said. “We all grew up as such big fans of that label. When the Give ’Em the Boot compilations started coming out, we wore those out back in the days of CDs, when they’d get all scratched up and you’d have to go get another one. Plus, Epitaph putting out all those Punk-O-Rama compilations—that was how we discovered music back then. I remember the first time I heard Hepcat on the first Give ’Em the Boot, and the first time I heard “Sidekick” by Rancid was on Punk-O-Rama. Being part of that legacy is the coolest thing.”

While The Interrupters are new to Coachella, Bivona is not: He played the festival with Tim Armstrong when they performed as part of Jimmy Cliff’s backing band in 2012.

“It’s a very California festival, and we’re looking forward to the whole experience of the thing,” he said. “(We’re looking forward to) playing to audience that may have never seen us before, (people) who go to that festival just to discover new music, because a lot of people buy a ticket before the lineup comes up, because they love discovering new music and being at the festival all weekend. We hope to grab some of them. We also want to check out the festival. Toots and the Maytals is performing. We want to see Dreamcar, which is the new band with the No Doubt guys and Davey Havok, so that’s also a cool experience for us.”

Published in Previews