Punk In Drublic: A Tale Told in Ten Parts
Prologue: 24 hours after the concert in the hallway outside the main office of SeatoSkyBeerGuy.com
MBW: What were you thinking?
ME: You…don’t like it?
MBW: Are you kidding? What were you thinking?
ME: It was a punk-rock, craft beer festival. There were punkers all around me. It felt like the right thing to do. ‘Cuz the atmosphere was…you know… so damn punky.
MBW: Are you even listening to what you’re saying?
ME: It’s like this, there was something going on that day. A feeling, a moment, a movement. I felt like I was a part of something larger than myself and and it was glorious. I felt like…an imbedded journalist. You know… like on the front-lines?
MBW: Well guess what, Beer Guy: You are not embedded. Not in my bed. There is no “embedding” for you. Good night.
*the door to the office closes with S2SBG on one side and MBW, Editor in Chief of the Lifestyle & Fashion division of seatoskybeerguy.com, most definitely on the other.
Introduction: a month before the concert, looking at my Facebook feed
NoFX is headlining a punk-rock, craft beer festival in Tacoma, Washington?
Bad Religion is playing too?
Fat Mike collab’d on a beer with Stone Brewing?
What a perfect fucking confluence of awesomeness. That would be a pretty amazing trip. I couldn’t possibly get my shit together and go.
“Like”. Scroll down. Move on.
Chapter 1: On the road to Tacoma
Passports? Check. Gas? Enuff. Okie Dokie Smokie, let’s go to Tacoma! And just like that, my friend Eric and I were off, bound for the border and the bedlam that lay beyond. What follows is an account of what happened leading up to, during and after the Punk in Drublic craft beer & music festival on the grounds of America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.
My love of NoFX started in the early 90’s with White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean. The pastoral picnic basket laid out in the opening of Sticking in my Eye, followed seconds later by rabid bears savaging said basket showed me the art of contrast in musical composition. And Liza and Louise taught me much about the emotion of love, lesbian or otherwise. And Bad Religion’s Stranger than Fiction held court in the CD changer that DJ’d my younger life, 5 silver discs at a time. In fact, I had to dig those dusty devils out of their milk-crate mausoleum just to prove I was rad once. And not like, back then I was rad and now I am not. More like, back then I was unencumbered and now I am tired. And a bit older. And far less likely to froth, bounce and mosh in a pit. And so it goes…
But fuck all that nostalgia! Live for today and today we’re on the road to Tacoma! Never-mind that this truck seems to be driving backwards in time…
Chapter 2: Sluggo Brewing Co.
Once we arrived in Tacoma, sussed-out the festival grounds and checked in to our hotel, it was time to find our friends and engage. As it happened there was a brewery within walking distance, so it was at Sluggo Brewing where a bunch of blokes from BC assembled. Sluggo’s IS a brewery, albeit a small one, boasting just one beer on tap: the Endo IPA, which was quite respectable. Fortunately, they supplemented their solitary offering with a whole slew of brews and my fave on that day was the Batch 15 IPA from Aslan Brewing.
These two cans of the Stone Brewing/NoFX collaboration beer turned out to be the only two we would see that day. My understanding was that you’d be able to buy six-packs at the venue but in conversation with Justin from @beerpunks on Instagram, the damn cans sold out at their previous show!
A quick review of the punk in drublic hoppy lager: It tasted like the sweat of a thousand fans hopping madly along to the discord of their favourite band. It tasted…good.
Once our thirst was slaked and the bill paid, we made our way to the festival. I love the aura outside a concert or event like this. The streets are full but with your people; like-minded folk finding common cause to carouse. Perhaps it’s an adrenaline release or maybe some sort of fun-time pheromone but whatever the mix, you’re both sending and receiving signals from every other member of the club. Aside from this airborne secret handshake, it’s also patently obvious who’s going and who’s not. At a Canucks game, for example, it’s the tell-tale jerseys of various vintage. At a punk-rock concert? Let’s just say the ripped and rock-patch-stitched denim vests were in abundance and so to were the hairstyles of varying colour and rigidity. Because Punk In Drublic had a craft beer component I sought out the stereotypical hipster beer nerd to compare and contrast. But I couldn’t readily pick one from the crowd and thus, had to abandon my vision of what a craft beer enthusiast looks like.
I mean, let’s just throw away the preconceptions, shall we? First of all, this show proved (to me, at least) you can’t judge a book by it’s neck tattoo. Punk rock and craft beer? These are two disparate things. If you’re into punk rock you’re into crushing an empty can of PBR on your forehead, spitting into the crowd and tearing open the next can with a car key. And similarly, if you’re into craft beer you’re into Indy bands on the Starbucks Shuffle while wearing a fifty dollar thrift-store tee stained by whatever beard-wax graced your Grizzly Adams that day. Neither of these descriptions are accurate, and like most labels, are lazily appropriate when talking generalities but fail miserably when tied to an individual.
That being said, there were some fucking fantastic haircuts on display and I’d be doing a disservice to the men and women in question if I didn’t acknowledge just how fabulous they truly were. So smitten was I by the multitudes of Mohawks that I simply had to seek out, interact with and document the people of courage & whythefucknot-edness to rock the ‘hawk.
Interlude #1: A Flock of ‘Hawks
I ran into this gentleman early on in the concert. After asking politely if I could take his picture and him happily agreeing and chatting for a bit afterwards, I knew what my side quest was to be, what it had to be.
Compared to previous, this gentleman’s haircut seems almost tame but I totally disagree. The sheer uniformity of what he’s created makes me think of a Roman Centurion’s helmet. Bad-ass.
If I remember correctly, the gentleman above said his employer didn’t mind the Mohawk, as long as it remained under a certain length. Lines have to be drawn somewhere, I suppose.
In the context of a concert, perhaps these two cuts blend in to the crowd. But they require the same amount of commitment as any other ‘hawk and are no less worthy of display.
These two require commitment and a degree in anti-gravity. Dry look, wet look, rad look.
This guy was a Vancouverite who also made the trip south of the border, and kinda wins my affection for the ‘perfect’ Mohawk: great length, great rigidity, superb use of colour. I didn’t notice until now though, that he’s being impaled by a liberty spike from…
…this guy! Kudos for having the most dangerous haircut!
Also, there was a penguin. Because in an ocean of punks, the most counter-conformity move is to groove against the grain. Nothing’s more punk rock than that!
I like this mash-up ‘cuz the one on the left screams “Let’s Go!” while the one on the right says, “Chill Winston, we’ll get there.”
This technicolour creation was so complete that the dude stage right bowed down to its beauty while the dude stage left wept in the arms of another, unable to face such greatness.
Okay. These two were not of the same crew. So I’m going to assume a cosmic coincidence occurred and I secretly hoped that the kindred spirits would find each other and fall in love. I have to give the commitment nod to the gentleman though, and here’s why: the Mohawk is longer, the ‘lobe gauge is off the charts and while her leopard prints are painted, his are tattooed and have been for 20 years! Damn, Son! You win!
Chapter 3: the beer
Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks and what’s fillin’ glasses. As the NoFX hoppy lager was a collaboration with Stone Brewing Company, it stood to reason they were gonna be a major component of the festival. They were, with more of their beers more readily available then any other. You could get a Stone brew at any of the booths but if one had the wherewithal to sample all the breweries you kind of had to hit every line until you were close enough to read the chalk.
The way it worked was there was a happy hour until 4pm. Until that time glasses of beer were 8.00 (US, remember) and 4oz. tasters were a dollar. After 4pm the prices rose to 10.00 and 3.00 respectively. If one was looking for the cheapest route en route to tasting them all, one’s best bet was to order multiples of the 4 ouncers and before four o’clock. This quickly proved problematic as a concert environment can be tough at the best of times to navigate. Add to the mix four little cups of beer in your hands and the degree of difficulty goes thru the roof. The distribution differed from say, what you would find at a typical beer festival. At a beer fest, individual breweries would set up booths and dispense their wares exclusively and you could often talk with them about the beer. At Punk in Drublic there were multiple booths all manned (and womaned) by volunteers pouring whatever was in the kegs behind them. I won’t call this a negative, as I felt it was probably necessary, given the situation. The line-ups were long and for an event of this magnitude, efficiently placing cups in peoples hands was paramount and I think they did a good job. In my case, probably too good a job.
Chapter 4: The Music
Listen, I’m not too sure what to say here as it pertains to the music. I mean, it was a punk rock concert. I think that might be a barrier to entry for some sensibilities but as I stated in the opening, I fucking love NoFX and Bad Religion. They both played pivotal roles in my formative years and, without getting too deep into the mire, helped shape my views on how I interact with the world vis-a-vis authoritarian concepts and established conventions (question all with a critical eye) absurdities within ourselves and the culture at large (bring them to light in order to foster change) and above all, to let out whatever witches brew boils up inside of you. Yell it to the heavens, bounce it off your bro’s and dance it off a cliff.
If you think I’m waxing hyperbolic, just know that Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin is an Ivy League professor with a Ph.D in zoology from Cornell. And while Fat Mike’s only appellation involves his rotundity, his lyrics force you to laugh out loud while being stabbed between the ribs with their sometimes poignant, oftentimes pugnacious, all the times punk rock handling of subject matter. So were they good? Ya, they were good. So were all the others. Hilltop Rats & Bad Cop Bad Cop were awesome and it had been far too long since I’d bounced around to the Ska-punk stylings of Less Than Jake and Goldfinger.
Interlude #2: The story within the story
Let’s set the scene here: I was having one of the best days of the dying days of summer. I was surrounded by good friends and good beer, advancing and retreating from the stage as we saw fit. There just wasn’t any more that could be done to make the moment more memorable. And then I saw it…
In the corner of the festival grounds, porta-potty adjacent, was a pop-up barber shop. I’d observed these before at other beer festivals, notably the VCBW a couple months earlier, and always thought them a tad out of place. This time, however, I knew the Fates had placed the pop-up in my path for a reason, and immediately made my way to the tent.
There were a couple of pages of eager patrons looking for some trim, so I wasn’t really holding out much hope. And yet… the aforementioned fun-time pheromone, a kind of punk-rock pixie dust, was thick in the air and affecting my optimism. Halfway thru Less Than Jake I returned to the Barber Shop to check progress. While I was still a ways down the line on paper, I was currently first in the actual line! The architect of my makeover beckoned me forward.
“What’ll it be, bub?”
Oh, I think you know…
Once the deed was done I bounced from the booth and bound into the fray, feeling lighter than air and in search of my mates.
Well? Whaddaya think?
Approval was almost unanimous. Eric, who knows MBW quite well, had more of a look of incredulity about him.
I turned him to my way of thinking.
He did have a point though. What would MBW think?
Aaah, let’s worry about tomorrow tomorrow.
The Final Chapter
And so the grand spectacle that was the Punk in Drublic Festival came to a close. We came, we saw, we drank, we made merry. As I get older I’ve found I’m much more appreciative of trips like this. In your youth you have all the time in the world and it’s right in front of you to seek out or squander as you see fit. Here at mid-world, time is not as abundant as it once was and less and less of it is yours to control. And I wouldn’t change places with my younger self for a second! I have two beautiful children and a Wife that (up until just recently) loves me and I’m content beyond my younger self’s wildest imagining.
And yet… from time to time you have to make time, drink good beer and listen to loud music with friends.
Epilogue: Two weeks after the concert
Things have been rather…chilly, here at SeatoSkyBeerBuy HQ since the festival. But assurances have been given regarding future behavior, compromises have been made regarding present appearances and bailing wire has been procured for any fences that required mending. MBW loves me for far more than my gangly good looks, but the Mohawk was the rotten cherry on top of a rancid cake that had been hanging around our house since midway thru the reno and continued past the first two weeks of school. The last month of our lives has been…challenging.
But fear not! The cake has been thrown out and the taste has been washed away with, what else? Delicious craft beer. We good.