Punk’s not dead! That is a true statement because there were about 22,000 of them standing, walking, moshing, and surfing crowds in the sweltering, heat this past Saturday at San Manuel Amphitheater for It’s Not Dead Fest.
I had planned on getting to the festival a little later, once the heat died down a bit, but since I was quite excited for the show and I ended up getting to the venue at about noon, smack in the middle of the dead heat. I got my press pass and they said I had to wait in this insanely long line to get in. It took about forty-five minutes to finally get into the venue. As we all waited in line, I was looking at people and also monitoring myself, beads of sweat were developing on everyone’s head and people’s faces looked as if they were melting. Shit, it was fucking hot. If it was 100 in my home of Los Angeles, it was 120 hear in the armpit of California (San Bernardino).
It was a show that brought older punk, ska and newer bands together in the same place. The festival’s headliners were Pennywise, Bad Religion, NOFX and The Descendents. Also on the bill were Lagwagon, The Vandals, TSOL, Anti-Flag, Swingin’ Utters, CJ Ramone, Agent Orange, Fishbone and The Adolescents and many many others. It was pretty much a 90s Southern California punk gumbo.
Each stage had a constant cloud of dust hovering over the crowd as fans ran in circles creating massive pits. At one point during Bad Religion’s set, Greg Graffin jokingly said “can you guys refrain from slam dancing for a while?” but as you know, you tell a punk to not do something, the more likely they are to do it, and they did.
From what I can recall, there was only one unfortunate hiccup that occurred. After Bad Religion played, Pennywise was set to close out the show. The stage was set up on a turntable and the turntable stopped working. Thankfully, by the amazing efforts of the stage crew they were able tear down both the Bad Religion and Pennywise equipment and reset Pennywise’s equipment in about fifteen minutes or so. It was pretty remarkable and super professional. The stage crew were fucking rock stars that night. Unfortunately, Pennywise did not have a ton of time to do a proper soundcheck and during their first song you could barely hear Jim Lindberg. His mic levels were way too low. He then grabbed, bassist, Randy Bradbury’s mic and did what he needed to do. At the end of the song, the crew gave Lindberg another mic, and it was almost like a cartoon, the mic cord was broken, Bradbury grabbed the end, and they all looked at each other in amazement of how silly the scenario was. After all the technology fails, everything was good and the band went on and played hard as always.
I really have to give it up to the fans at It’s Not Dead Fest because they muscled through a horrific day of dry heat and tons of dust. But if you’re a real punk, you won’t let that shit stop you.
Naturally, people were getting their drinking on at It’s Not Dead Fest. Maybe a little too much considering the heat. One guy came out of the pit and then puked in three different spots in front of me. Then I saw another guy come out of the pit nearly passed out, and then laid in that other guys vomit. He then went on to dump a rock star energy drink all over his face. It was pretty comical to say the least. Medics came to check him out and he was all good. Just a little exhausted and intoxicated. It’s like we tell all those Coachella kids, If you’re gonna drink hard in triple digit heat, be sure to hydrate with plenty of water. Don’t be “that guy” or “that girl” — shit’s amateur.
Despite the face-melting heat, It’s Not Dead Fest was a great event. If the festival comes back around next year, I would hope it’s during a much more cool month. I am sure the organizers wanted to do this in October to maybe have some cooler weather, but the gods were against them and slammed a heat wave down on us. But all in all, it pretty much went off without a hitch.
Words & Photography: Wes Marsala
Written for GrimyGoods.com, October 13, 2015