Michael “Fat Mike” Burkett, the bass player, singer, and maestro of NOFX, brought his punk-rock circus and beer festival mashup to the Ventura County Fairgrounds on March 27th. The festival was conceived by Burkett and his friend Cameron Collins as sort of a Vans Warped Tour for adults. Collins, already a successful promoter of beer festivals, may not like that characterization as his vision was more of an intimate event with no more than one band playing at any given time. The festival doesn’t have multiple stages of simultaneous music that a very young ADD crowd found appealing at a Warped Tour concert. Instead, entry to Punk In Drublic was limited to a 21 and up crowd and included three hours of free beer samples.
While the older crowd gave the event a more sophisticated and organized feel, it didn’t dampen any of the enthusiasm of aging punk rock fans, many of whom came to relive their moshing and crowd surfing glory days. Free craft beer tasting from noon until three certainly helped fuel the adult crowd’s energy levels. Pennywise even debuted their brand of Golden Ale called Unknown Road from an El Segundo brewing company.
Just as the free beer ended, local surf punk legends Dr. Know took the stage. The reunited group has been credited with helping to invent the Nardcore sound. Hailing from the nearby surfing community, The Strand, the group featured originals members Ismael Hernandez and singer Brandon Cruz. Yes, the same brand Cruz that, was a famous child actor. Cruz has been the lead singer of several punk bands, including a stint with the Dead Kennedys. The local band received a fierce welcome with one of the first full mosh pits of the day. At one point, Cruz jumped into the crowd and passed his microphone around to fans who knew all the words to the chorus lines.
The Bombpops were up next in a near-seamless transition from one stage to the other. The skate punk rock band was formed in San Diego, California, in 2007. The band was fronted by original members Jen Razavi and Poli van Dam. The band played a short set of short songs with a big punch.
Almost immediately after the Bombpops played their last note, another local band exploded on the opposite stage. Ill Repute is an American hardcore punk band from nearby Oxnard, formed in 1981. Much like Dr. Know before them, Ill Repute has been credited with popularizing the Nardcore sound. The band had many local fans as the crowd surged towards the stage and immediately created a giant mosh pit. The band has reunited with most of its original members, including “The Mayor of Nardcore” guitarist Tony Cortez. The group ended their rowdy set with a cover of “Cherokee Nation," a song popular in the 1970s by Paul Revere and The Raiders. The song was initially recorded in 1959 by Marvin Rainwater.
The all-female punk rock band Bad Cop Bad Cop played next and were the big surprise of the day. Unlike the Go Go’s, these women know how to play their instruments. Bassist Linh Le laid down fierce, frenzied rhythms. Myra Gallarza played thundering drum beats. Stacey Dee and Jennie Cotterill played mean guitars and shared lead vocal duties. But all four band members could sing and put together some charming harmonies amidst an explosion of punk music reminiscent of early Clash records. The Ventura crowd loved the group whose recent recordings have been produced by Fat Mike.
Continuing the nearly seamless set changes from one stage to another, the skate punk band Lagwagon, formed in nearby Goleta, California, in 1989, exploded on stage. The band played a 45 minute set of fast, furious mosh, inducing tunes. The band has a rich history in the Santa Barbara area. The band's former drummer Derrick Plourde, who died in 2005, was also in the local Montecito band RKL. Lagwagon paid tribute to that influential band and the three members of RKL who died all prematurely with a cover song from the Montecito punkers. On another side note, guitarist Chris Shiflett, best known as the lead guitarist of the Foo Fighters, and his brother bass player Scott Shiflett both took a turn playing in Lagwagon.
As Lagwagon finished their last notes, old-school hardcore punk rocker T.S.O.L exploded on the next stage. Formed in 1978 in Long Beach, the band was at the forefront of the early California punk scene. Original lead guitarist Ron Emory started things off with an explosive guitar solo. Original bass player Mike Roche then kicked in with an explosive bass beat that the surging crowd could feel eviscerating their internal organs. Then original lead singer Jack Grisham beaming an evil smile, dashed on stage and danced about like a whirling Dervish. The crowd loved it and formed a big mosh pit.
Face to Face roared to life as soon as TSOL finished their set. The band, first formed in Victorville, California, in 1991was one of the most commercially successful bands on the day's lineup, due to the heavy rotation on the KROQ radio station. The band played solid punk rock sounds from their hefty catalog, including their newest album, "No Way out but Through." Scott Shiflett, the current bass player, laid down some heavy rhythms. Since the beginning, lead singer and guitarist Trever Keith, the only original member, has held down the fort. The band played the second-longest set of the day, coming in at an hour and fifteen minutes.
The first pause of the day came before the much anticipated Pennywise show as the second stage was shut down, and the crowd waited for a 30-minute set change on the main stage. Fans began bundling up as the cool ocean breeze blew into the night air. Pennywise finally took the stage, eliciting a roar from the ever-tightening crowd. Original lead singer Jim Lindberg had the crowd moshing almost before the first note was played with his charismatic vocals and vigorous cheerleader style. The band featured three of the four original members, including Lindberg, guitarist Fletcher Dragge and drummer Byron McMackin. Bass player Randy Bradbury took over for original bassist Jason Thirsk, who sadly faced an untimely death. The band had a catalog of no less than nine albums of material to choose from and tore through a half-hour of mosh-inducing material before the show faced an untimely halt. An elderly fan apparently broke his ankle moshing about, and following new protocols, the show was stopped while first responders went into the crowd to remove the injured fan. As the grey-haired man was wheeled out on a stretcher, he shot reassuring fingers into the air to signal that he was conscious and living in the moment. Unfortunately, the 30-minute delay cost Pennywise a good portion of their set, but they played another searing 20 minutes or so before running out of time.
Another 30-minute set change ensued, and an ocean fog engulfed the cold night air at the fairgrounds. But when NOFX took the stage at 8.30, the crowd was as big as it had been all day, a testament to the band's large fanbase. The band's de facto leader, bassist, and lead singer Fat Mike appeared on stage wearing a black tutu and dancing to the opening track “The Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. A shirtless Eric Melvin, the band's original rhythm guitarist, appeared a bit maniacal with his long dreadlocks covering his face. He launched into the band's first song, backed by original drummer Erik "Smelly" Sandin. Aaron "El Hefe" Abeyta rounded out the band playing lead guitar and trumpet. Fat Mike set the pace and the mood with his amusing larger-than-life personality. “I thought we were playing in Ventura in May, not March,” a sarcastic commentary on the cold night air. But the cool weather didn’t stop music fans from creating the most enormous mosh pit of the night. The band tore through a 22 song setlist pulling gems from their lengthy catalog. By the time the band played their last song, “Kill All the White Man” from their “Longest Line” EP, almost the entire crowd was intact and dancing and singing the chorus. It was a bold showing from an older hardcore audience that had braved nearly 11 hours of drinking, moshing, dancing, and singing at the Punk In Drublic show. The next show takes place on May 7th in Sacramento. https://www.punkindrublicfest.com/
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