Kicking off a day of mostly old-school punk at noon is asking a lot of some of the elder statesmen of the scene; many of the musicians on the bill are the wrong side of 50, if not closer to 60, and a good percentage of their fans are of a similar age. So when Riverside pop-punk band Sailor’s Songbook and Australian screamers Clowns start the day’s events, the crowd is pretty sparse. Not that those bands care; they both blast through their 30 minute set as if they’re headlining.
Kudos to the people behind SoCal Hoedown though; this is a well-organized event from the parking situation to the meticulous layout. It’s niche enough that it doesn’t get overrun and unbearably crowded, but broad enough that plenty of punks show up. The food truck lines were crazily long, but you can’t have everything (something to consider though).
On Saturday, there were three stages of entertainment. The main two were side by side, ensuring that the music was pretty much continuous. A side stage allows some smaller but no less excellent bands to perform.
It was impossible, therefore, to see everyone but highlights of that side stage included SoCal punk vets White Kaps and Shattered Faith, wild rock & rollers the Rhythm Shakers, and crooners Big Sandy & his Fly-Rite Boys.
Rockabilly and psychobilly was well represented on the main stages, with Three Bad Jacks, Detroit’s Koffin Kats and Danish-American band Nekromantix offering the double-bass-heavy twangy delights. Of those three, the Koffin Kats probably edged it; their show was a wild, low brow party. Australians The Living End also have a rockabilly vibe, though it’s a little less wild and a bit more pop-punk. Still, songs such as “Roll On” and the ever-brilliant “Prisoner of Society” sounded superb.
Many of our SoCal punk favorites were present and correct; DI, led by Casey Royer, were the first crowd puller of the day and they didn’t disappoint with a set that included the Foyer co-penned Adolescents classic “Amoeba.” Similarly, Agent Orange kept the pit moving with 30 minutes of ska-tinged agro-punk. Naturally, “Bloodstains” was the highlight.
It was an all-ages, family-friendly event so maybe it’s a blessing that Chicago’s Dwarves didn’t have famously naked guitarist Hewhocannotbenamed with them at the Port of Los Angeles for this set. Still, they powered through a set of crowd faves including the poppy and manic “Everybody’s Girl.” The Dickies’ Leonard Graves Phillips, meanwhile, was vocally unapologetic about his recent Warped Tour controversy, and this crowd (men and women) were clearly, loudly on his side. Regardless, the set (though missing some “Banana Splits”) was excellent.
The Dead Kennedys were visibly fired up for this show, particularly singer Skip Greer (the band’s fourth frontman), who points out that he’s sick of hearing about their original singer and persistent calls for his return. That’s fine, but Jello Biafra is an iconic character and it’s tough to fill his boots. Greer does as good a job as anyone could ask, and the band sounded great on Saturday.
You just can’t deny punk anthems such as “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” “California Uber Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia.” The last two in particular are up there with “Anarchy in the UK” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” when it comes to punk’s greatest hits.
That all just left Venice Beach’s Suicidal Tendencies to clean things up. Mike Muir knows how to grab a festival crowd by the scruff of the neck by now, and songs like “You Can’t Bring Me Down” do exactly that. The pit was insane, and the crowd was delighted to see Tye Trujillo, son of Metallica/former Suicidal bassist Rob Trujillo, up there rocking in his dad’s old position.
And with that, it was all over. The organizers have quite a job assembling a bill this impressive next year.