While Team Beat was casting its net over New York Comic Con this past weekend. I partook of a different kind of craziness. This past Saturday in San Bernardino California some of the most influential bands of the past 20 years gathered for what’s best described as the Comic-Con of punk rock at “It’s Not Dead”.
The story of “It’s Not Dead” has roots in one of the longest running traveling music festivals around, the Warped Tour and its founder Kevin Lyman. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you, like a lot of us, grew up in the 90’s. There, Summers meant two things: Free posters at San Diego Comic-Con and seeing bands like The Vandals at Warped Tour when it came through your town. For years that show featured huge eclectic line ups made up of the best bands from the worlds of punk, ska, and hardcore. For underage fans it was the only way you’d see Bad Religion, Descendents, or Hatebreed. Then, like most eras of music, things changed. Part of getting older means the things you love age with you. Your dog goes from being an energetic pup to a lazy old pooch, the music kids listen to today makes you shake your fist at them. Warped Tour isn’t the show you remember anymore… and that was always its nature. The more corporate the tour got the more it became about appealing to the youngest common denominator. I missed my punk rock show and apparently so did Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman.
“It’s Not Dead” was more everything than I remember loving about punk rock shows. The mountains surrounding the dirt field of the San Manuel Amphitheater provided a picturesque scene for both the youth of today and the fans of the past to dance, slam, and circle pit to over 30 bands across three stages. It’s Not Dead took a page out of the cons we love today and embraced all the worlds music touches. I even found YA author Cecil Castellucci reading a passage out of her Star Wars: Moving Target book in the festival’s version of an artist alley/program room.
A massive circus tent housed art exhibits by punk inspired artists like Chris Shay, photography galleries that featured seminal moments and musicians in the history of the Warped Tour, and a book seller stage that featured readings from writers and musicians turned authors like TSOL’s Jack Grisham.
Grisham stood on that stage and read through a passage from his latest book “A Principle of Recovery” . As I stood there in the minimal comfort of a shaded tent, but still a victim of fowl unseasonable southern California October weather, I listened to him tell a story about a friend’s car crash in Long Beach made a sobering experience by the brutality of not only the accident but how drugs kept a man on fire from the fear and pain people need to survive. He closed his time with a story of admittance about telling off an Orange County cop. His words were chilling to say the least.
Just like the glory days of conventions; no creators here were entirely unreachable. From bands having signings at the FYE booth to just seeing guys like the Stern Brothers, Brian Baker from Bad Religion, and Matt Freeman from Rancid walking around the festival and talking to everyone that approached for an autograph or a picture; it shows just how communal this world always was. I was even lucky enough to get the recently released Fear of a Punk Planet comic by Joe Escalante of the Vandals and Tsunami Bomb’s Dominic Davi.
Loads of vendors selling merch or pushing for various causes, big air demos on the Van’s half pipe, and loads of free Rockstar energy drinks yet the music never lost focus and if this is your niche the show did not disappoint. At all.
Celebrating their 20th year, New York’s straight edge melodic hardcore group H2O took the main stage in the midst of sweltering 99 degree weather. It didn’t stop the bands leader, Toby Morse, from metaphorically breaking down the barrier between concert goers and the stage as he did most of the set with the crowd. From then it was one hard hitting punk experience after another with bands like Anti-Flag showing their new Donald Trump target mascot piñata. Other bands we loved on the bill included Reel Big Fish, The Vandals, Bouncing Souls, NOFX, Bad Religion, and the iconic pioneers of pop punk The Descendents.
In a world of internet trolls and “ if you don’t support my cause” shame; things like the all inclusive “It’s Not Dead” are more counter-culture than ever. If you live punk rock this is a day worth coming out for.
It might have to take a multi-vitamin everyday now, but punk is definitely not dead. Keep up with the festival on Facebook, and their official site to see if you’ll have another chance to witness the All-o-gistics.