“Noooooooo!” I groaned as I pulled the covers over my head. In my exhaustion, I had managed to sleep through most of the morning, bypassing my body’s (which is on Central Standard Time) tendency to wake up hours before anyone else. The ‘Get up! Your friends are playing the day show’ alarm was going off. Skyler and I took turns getting ready in the tiny bathroom while the other starfished out on the bed in an attempt to soak up just a few more moments of Moroccan relaxation before a very long day.
We met up with our pal Lenny at Rachos Cocina for brunch. Lenny is such a great human; he lives in Seattle now but used to live in Chicago. I always forget this, as our paths never crossed in the Midwest. But I found out that he actually helped build Logan Arcade! I powered through my chalice of horchata and chipotle tempeh bowl as we chatted about all things music, Chicago, and our plans for the day. Then we headed over to Bar Pink, just down the street, to catch Mables Marbles open up the third day of the festival. Skyler and I have a special place in our hearts for Bar Pink, as we bonded over one of their signature drinks – the Sneaky Tiki – during last year’s fest. So we decided it again was time to imbibe in our now annual tradition.
I had never seen Mables play before and didn’t really know what to expect. What I got was a wall of gritty gang vocals set to catchy, fast, power punk. Nice. During their set, I started to see more and more friendly faces filling up the pink elephant themed bar. I almost dropped my drink from happiness when I saw Merissa Allen. Is there a nicer and more gorgeous human in existence? I don’t think so!
Over to The Office for False Positives. Similar to yesterday’s venue set up, today’s two locations were located conveniently just a block away from each other. This was a band I had definitely seen before. Their fast, fun songs mix the punk stylings of both the Midwest and the Bay Area. It’s a win-win. To be honest, based on some online taunting and daring on my end, I was a little scared that they may try to Ice me. But everyone got through the set Smirnoff free, thank god.
Over at Bar Pink, everyone was losing their shit over Slumped and it was easy to see why. The East Bay four-piece features musicians who are so talented and captivating at such a young age that your first reaction is “It’s not fair” and your second is “This song is so good. Please don’t ever stop!” Se Vende took the stage at The Office and dished out their infectious brand of Pop Punk (heavier on the Punk than the Pop) layered with snotty vocals. The room erupted in laughter when they wished “Willy Ladders” a Happy Birthday, a joke which Heck Yes had started yesterday and it just kept snowballing. At one point last night, Will everyone kept trying to buy him shots and it was great. Today, he said it was not so great… because everyone kept trying to buy him shots.
It was somewhere here where I was introduced to my favorite bleach blonde Steph Presz’ parents. Holy attractive genetics, Batman! The next thing I knew, I was deep in conversation with her mom about real estate and with her dad about finances and market rates. I don’t think there’s really a better metaphor for the duality of my life at 32 than being at a punk music fest, missing a band or two to willingly and joyfully engage in conversations about ‘adult’ things and my career. Hey Steph, tell your parents I say hi and I hope they’re both having a great day!
I was a few steps out of the bar, on my way to Bar Pink, when I was detoured to the neighborhood leather daddy bar, the Eagle. Word spread quickly that they had Jell-O shots so a group of around fifteen or so of us headed over for a quick trip and strip. I ended up missing Divided Heaven and Dewey Defeats Truman.
But I made it back to The Office in time for Micah Schnabel. I had only seen Micah perform with Two Cow Garage. And his solo performance took that power and amplified it. The song that reached me to the most was “New Shoes,” a song about how toxic masculinity is ruining our society. I stayed over at The Office because I wanted to ensure that I caught all of Hey Chels. The band is a San Diego super group filled with some of the most beautiful and talent humans from Western Settings, Squarecrow, The Newports, and New Way On. It was interesting to see Ricky and Kevin White take a step back from their normal roles as frontmen and let both Jacque and Steph take the lead with her amazing pipes and hard hitting drumming, respectively. Hey, Chels is one of those bands you just know you’re to be getting into on the ground level. Because in a few years, you won’t be able to get into their sold out shows.
I finally left The Office and headed back to Bar Pink for Signalman. Similar to DFMK, there’s not much that would keep me from catching these guys perform whenever I come through. Their live show is a force to be reckoned with. Back over for Moosejaw, who I knew almost nothing about except they were Ziggy’s old band. And then back for another Sneaky Tiki and the pals in Squarecrow. By this point I was filled with maximum sneakiness, so I asked Todd Allen for a favor. As the band played through their set and got to “Grazie Millie,” Skyler pulled out is phone and started filming as they dedicated the song to our friend Kiran. He’s one of the nicest humans around and, like so many of us, had been having a tough April. With a quick post to Facebook, we hoped to make his day. Love you, Kiran!
I fucking love Bastards of Young and always wish they’d play more or at least closer to me. The last time I saw them was at Fest. And when I say I ‘saw’ them at Fest, I mean that it was less of a visual experience and more of a “Goddammit, I missed Bastards of Young. Oh no wait, I didn’t. I totally took photos of them. I just partied too hard with Regan to remember even being there.” Well, not this time! I was at least semi-conscious as I sang my lungs out to “Good Grief” and “East Noble.”
What words are there that even come close to describing the tornado of pure energy that is Pity Party? Their EP Are You Happy Yet? came out in March of 2018 and I sat on it like a dummy until I saw them at last year’s LE Fest. That’s when I went into mega fan overload and I’ve been screaming the lyrics to “Grindmother” in my car ever since. Pity Party has written a new full-length and I salivate every time I even think about the thought of its release.
Speaking of bands who I had been dying for new music from, up next was Problem Daughter. Much to my delight, the Salt Lake City-based band released a new LP in March which I devoured and memorized. I had tried to be good and to not feed singer/bassist Regan too much alcohol before the set. He and I are like mogwai; bad things happen if you feed us too much booze at certain times during the day. Their set was SO GOOD. It seemed that everyone else apparently had been as excited for Grow Up Trash to come out too, because the whole room was dancing and singing along. I’m sure I will say this at least a handful of times this year, but their new song “Modern Stigmata” may be the perfect punk song of all time, and definitely of 2019.
One more trip back to Bar Pink for Decent Criminal. The California four-piece (where are you guys even from anymore?!) leaned heavy on their current release, 2017’s Bloom, for their set. But they also sprinkled in a few songs from their new album, Bliss, coming out on Wiretap Records in June. I trudged back to The Office for the closer of the evening, Western Settings. Every year I’ve gone to LE Fest, Western Settings has of course played. And every year I feel like I fall short when I try to describe the sensory overload I experience when I watch them. Yet, here I go again, taking a chance at the indescribable.
I’ve seen a lot of my friends on social media write about that specific feeling that you get when you’re lost somewhere in the middle of a really great show and this wave of calm or acceptance washes over you. Well, I get something like that when I see this band play, but the wave is that of being home. It doesn’t matter if we’re in Gainesville, Chicago, San Diego, or Tijuana, Western Settings and the people in it are my home. From late night kitchen conversations with Adam to tiki drinks with Dylan to literally any interaction with Ricky. And for Will, well I would have thrown in the towel on Bad Copy a few months after it launched if not for a serious and motivating conversation with Will. These dudes mean the world to me and so does their music.
Post show, I helped Problem Daughter carry their merch to the van before heading over to El Zarape with Skyler for sustenance, as our brunch wore off about three sneaky tikis ago. Then we headed to Karaoke at Tower Bar. When it was announced last year as the ‘after party’ for Saturday’s day shows, I was skeptical. But Kevin and I went and, honestly, it was one of the best and most memorable parts of the weekend. This year was no different. Everyone who had missed last year seemed to gather up a second (or fifth or tenth?) wind and show up this time around. Mike Kelly (Matt Caskitt & the Breaks, Ash Williams) performed his patented 9/11 Karaoke in which he talks about conspiracy theories over punk songs. This year, it was Green Day’s “Good Riddance.” Michelle (Flaunt, Le Saboteur) did one hell of a rendition of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff.” There was Panic! at the Disco. There was swing dancing. It was the perfect ending to an tiring but wonderful day.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it here, the photos for the last few bands from the evening are by my standards, for lack of a better word, shitty. I’m normally able to keep my shit together long enough to snap a few decent shots of each band. But from Pity Party on out, I was so fucking stoked about each band’s set that I ended up singing and dancing the whole time. So, sorry for the blurry shots everyone. But I had a great time and you really didn’t need a new profile pic that bad anyway. That being said, check out the below gallery of La Escalera Fest 8’s Day 3 and check back tomorrow for Day 4 coverage: