By DAN MACINTOSH
Gnarlytown was a day filled with extreme sports and punk rock, and smartly offered free entrance to children under 5 with a paid adult admission. With many children sitting atop their fathers’ shoulders during Rancid’s set, it was obvious a lot of families took advantage of this money-saving offer.
Although older children required a purchased ticket to the festival, there were many attendees of that variety too (albeit, not crushing their fathers’ shoulders). One mom bounced along to Rancid songs, sometimes singing along with her teenage son. It was so cool to see one generation passing favorite music on to the next one. Who knew punk rock could be so family friendly?
OFF!’s lead singer Keith Morris even admitted to toning down between song language, since there were so many younger folks in the audience. OFF! never toned down the energy of their powerful punk rock, though. This all-star outfit, that also includes Steven Shane McDonald (Redd Kross), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides) and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From The Crypt), played an urgent set, filled with equally urgent political messages.
While Pennywise was top billed, and its T-shirts probably outnumbered every other performing artist’s gear, Rancid’s set was the clear highlight of the day. It might be easy to take Rancid for granted, as the Bay Area band has been around for so long now. However, the group’s sound, which incorporates ska elements and the best sonic stylings of The Clash’s first few albums, helped create an hour-long set of joyous shout-alongs.
Whether performing newer songs, like “Ghost of a Chance,” or time-tested favorites, like “Time Bomb” or “Ruby Soho,” the set caught fire from the get-go and never lagged a second after that. It should also be noted that Rancid’s strong sense of melody made its songs enjoyable for even non-punk rockers, while its underdog perspective was (and is) undeniably punk rock.
While Pennywise, Madball and Rotting Out performed relatively generic hardcore punk rock, San Pedro’s own Mike Watt, with his jazzy trio, brought a more advanced form of musicality to his songs and covers, like The Stooges’ “Fun House.” Aquadolls opened the musical portion of the show with melodic, feminine psychedelia.
Between musical sets, skateboarders and bikers (both motorized and peddled) entertained the crowd. These skateboarders, featuring Chris Cole, were skilled, but paled in comparison to the bikers that also included Travis Pastrana. The biking crew had trouble with windy conditions at first, but by night’s end were able to thrill with tricks that really need to be seen to be believed.
By alternating between extreme sports and musical performances, Gnarlytown was able to keep this audience consistently entertained. It turned out to be a kind-of family day; but much cooler than any more traditional family picnic.