Punk, Emo and Indie Rock Are Still Kicking at Local Music Festivals

By Justin Chapman

 

One thing is for sure—as The Exploited put it at the No Values music festival in Pomona last weekend: Punk’s not dead.

 

Another round of Goldenvoice’s epic springtime music festivals in Southern California is in the books. Three festivals — Cruel World and Just Like Heaven in Pasadena, and No Values in Pomona — spanned the gamut of alternative rock, from 1980s emo to 1990s hardcore to 2000s indie. The specific niche audiences for each style of music are clearly still around, and still clamoring to hear the aging rock stars of yesteryear belt out their favorite classic tunes on stage. Said aging rock stars did not disappoint.

 

No Values, a festival featuring hardcore punk, took place on the enormous Pomona Fairplex grounds on Saturday, June 8. The extensive lineup boasted such underground classics as The (original) Misfits, Social Distortion, Iggy Pop, Bad Religion, Sublime, Suicidal Tendencies, The Damned, Dillinger Escape Plan, Turnstile, Black Flag, Hepcat, The Vandals, T.S.O.L., The Adicts, The Adolescents, The Aquabats, The Untouchables, The Dead Milkmen, Steve Ignorant of Crass, The Lawrence Arms, Agent Orange, The Exploited and many more.



There were so many bands at No Values, it begged the question, why weren’t there more? Where was NOFX? (Answer: in the UK as part of their final farewell tour, which ends with three dates in Los Angeles on October 4-6). The festival had Bad Religion, but not Rancid? How about Leftöver Crack? Subhumans and The Casualties are still together—where were they? They would have fit right in with this lineup, as would a number of other punk classics that were a bit conspicuous in their absence. That said, whoever curated this festival should be commended.

 

The Fairplex was absolutely packed, with lots of elder punks but some young ones, too, almost all wearing black or your typical hardcore garb, with mohawks and spiky hair aplenty. With four stages at No Values compared to two at Cruel World and Just Like Heaven, the crowd in Pomona was at least double if not more the Pasadena crowds, proving that Southern California remains one of if not the biggest markets for punk music in the world.

 

No Values felt like a return of the Warped Tour—albeit of a harder core variety—which ended in 2018. The Warped Tour, also known as Punk Rock Summer Camp, is where countless young punks discovered new music in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Case in point: at No Values, skateboarders shredded a large half-pipe sponsored by Vans, reminiscent of the skate punk scene that was prevalent at Warped Tour.



Also adding to the ambience was a procession of small planes that regularly flew overhead as they came in for a landing at nearby Brackett Air Field, along with many attendees dressed as bananas, lucha libre wrestlers and other wacky characters.



Amid the plethora of acts, there were several notable performances at No Values. Punk legend Brad Logan (F-Minus, Leftöver Crack) played with The Adolescents. He wrote on Instagram that he bemoaned the 9 a.m. soundcheck call time, but when he later heard about the traffic jam to get onto the Fairplex grounds, he wrote, “I was stoked on 9 a.m. because I’m always late, everywhere, and would have surely blown one of the coolest gigs I’ve ever played.”

 

During Dillinger Escape Plan’s set, punk legend Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys surprised the crowd with a rousing rendition of “California Über Alles,” featuring lyrics about Governor Schwarzenegger and President Trump. Biafra also sang “Police Truck” with Agent Orange and led a DJ set called “Jello Biafra’s Incredibly Strange Dance Party.”

 

Both Bad Religion and Sublime played “We’re Only Gonna Die for Our Own Arrogance,” a Bad Religion original from 1982 that Sublime covered in 1992.



Seeing Sublime play, with Bradley Nowell’s son Jakob at the helm alongside original bassist Eric Wilson and original drummer Bud Gaugh, was the highlight of the festival (you can watch the full set here). Jakob, who was 11 months old when Bradley died of a heroin overdose, sounds just like his dad. Jakob is 28 years old now, the same age Bradley was when he died in 1996. The serendipity of this band’s reunion this spring has felt just right to their fans — the feel-good comeback story of the year, in an era of many such reunions (blink-182, The Blood Brothers, New Kids on the Block, The Killers, etc.).

 

Sublime released a brand new single on May 24 that actually features Bradley’s voice called “Feel Like That,” which picks up right where the band left off in 1996 (many fans felt that Sublime with Rome’s run in the interim did not have the same charisma and vibe as the original lineup).

 

Sublime posted on Instagram that No Values was “the punk rock fest of the year!” Likewise, when Hepcat, one of the more danceable acts of the festival, took the stage, one of the ska and reggae band’s lead singers, Alex Désert (the other lead singer, Greg Lee, died on March 19), said, “No matter which way you look at it, this is a fantastic day!” Everyone seemed to be in agreement, even if the parking situation was less than ideal (though, when it’s free, it’s hard to complain), and even though these festivals can be a bit of an endurance test, especially if you go all day.



Meanwhile, at Brookside in Pasadena, the music festivals have become a well-oiled machine. They have become a key element of the Rose Bowl’s financial health, along with international soccer and UCLA football. On May 11, 80s era music fans enjoyed Duran Duran, Simple Minds, Soft Cell, Adam Ant, Ministry, Gary Numan, Dreamcar (a supergroup composed of AFI’s Davey Havok and three-quarters of No Doubt) and much more. On May 18, 2000s era music fans danced to The Postal Service and that band’s lead singer and guitarist Ben Gibbard’s other band Death Cab for Cutie, Phoenix (with a surprise appearance by Vampire Weekend’s lead singer and guitarist Ezra Koenig who sang an exhilarating rendition of “1901” that rocked the Arroyo Seco), Miike Snow, Passion Pit, Metric and many others.



It’s clear that AEG/Goldenvoice’s experiment in 2017 with the Arroyo Seco Weekend music festival has been a success, and Southern California music fans can continue to expect multiple genres represented in several music festivals each year.



Read the May 2024 issue of Justin Chapman's free Substack email newsletter, featuring news about his LA Press Club journalism award nominations, his new book about Paradise Springs, the latest episode of “Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman” featuring an interview with outgoing Pasadena Heritage executive director Sue Mossman, the latest episode of "Well Read with Justin Chapman" featuring an interview with Irish journalist and author Rory Carroll, a Drift Travel Magazine article mentioning Justin, book and music recommendations, stories to keep an eye on, and more!

Award-Winning Show “Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman” Welcomes Outgoing Pasadena Heritage Executive Director Sue Mossman Friday

 

Pasadena Media’s award-winning local TV talk show “Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman” returns this Friday with guest Sue Mossman, retiring executive director of Pasadena Heritage.

 

Last month, “Pasadena Monthly” won a 1st place award in the Talk Show category at the Alliance for Community Media West’s WAVE (Western Access Video Excellence) Awards. This month, Chapman was nominated as a finalist in the Anchor/Host and Talk/Public Affairs categories of the LA Press Club’s Southern California Journalism Awards, both for “Pasadena Monthly.” Winners will be announced next month.

 

Mossman, who moved to Pasadena in 1976, worked for Pasadena Heritage for 45 years and served as executive director for 30 years. Under her tenure, Pasadena Heritage saved countless Pasadena landmarks from demolition and grew to become one of the most successful and respected preservation organizations in the country. She helped save Bullock’s Pasadena (now Macy’s) and the Stuart Pharmaceutical Company building (now A Noise Within and housing), create Heritage Housing Partners and the biennial Colorado Street Bridge Party, and defeat the 710 freeway, among other victories.

 

“Pasadena Monthly” airs at 5 p.m. PT on the fourth Friday of every month on Pasadena Media’s Arroyo Channel and streaming apps, available on channel 99 on AT&T U-verse, channel 32 on Charter Spectrum, YouTube, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku. The show is written, hosted and produced by Chapman, directed and edited by Jeffrey Stanfill, supervised by producer Jasiri Jenkins-Glenn, executive produced by Chris Miller and chief executive produced by George Falardeau, CEO and executive director of Pasadena Media.

 

“This is must-watch television each month for everyone who cares about this city,” Falardeau said.

 

Guests on “Pasadena Monthly” (and its previous iteration, “NewsRap Local”) have included Congress member Judy Chu; Congress member Adam Schiff; Assembly member Chris Holden; Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo; Pasadena city manager Miguel Márquez; LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger; JPL director Dr. Laurie Leshin; and many others.

 

Chapman was the youngest elected official in LA County when he served on the Altadena Town Council at age 19. He has served on a number of local boards and wrote hundreds of articles for dozens of print and digital publications, including KPCC/LAistAlta JournalHuffington PostLA Weekly, Irish PostBerkeley Political ReviewPasadena Weekly, Pasadena Star-NewsPasadena Now and many others. He has won several LA Press Club journalism awards. He was a professional child actor who starred in dozens of movies, TV shows, commercials and plays. He previously served as Communications Officer for USC’s Pacific Council on International Policy and currently serves as the District 6 Council Liaison/Field Representative to Pasadena Vice Mayor Steve Madison.

 

Learn more at justindouglaschapman.com and pasadenamedia.org.

Justin Chapman writes, produces, and hosts a monthly TV talk show on Pasadena Media's TV channel, called "Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman," formerly known as the award-winning "NewsRap Local with Justin Chapman." The sixteenth episode aired Monday, April 29, 2024, and featured a discussion with Dr. Bethany Ehlmann, president of the Planetary Society and professor of planetary science at Caltech. Watch the full episode below:



Read the April 2024 issue of Justin Chapman's free Substack email newsletter, featuring news about his show "Pasadena Monthly" winning a 1st place video award in the Talk Show (Professional Producer) category in the Alliance for Community Media West’s WAVE (Western Access for Video Excellence) Awards, the latest episode of “Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman” featuring an interview with Planetary Society president and Caltech professor of planetary science Dr. Bethany Ehlmann, the latest episode of "Well Read with Justin Chapman" featuring an interview with James Bond scholar Mark Edlitz, a New Yorker article mentioning Justin, book recommendations, and more!

“Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman” Wins 1st Place Video Award and Welcomes Planetary Society President Dr. Bethany Ehlmann Friday

 

Pasadena Media’s flagship local TV talk show “Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman” won a 1st place award in the Talk Show (Professional Producer) category at the Alliance for Community Media (ACM) West’s WAVE (Western Access Video Excellence) Awards on Friday. The show was also a finalist in the Magazine Show (Professional Producer) category.

 

ACM West’s region includes public access channel programming from Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico.

 

The “Pasadena Monthly” episode that won aired in July 2023 and featured an interview with Nikki High, founder and owner of Octavia’s Bookshelf, a bookstore dedicated to BIPOC authors located at 1365 N. Hill Ave.

 

“Once I discovered books written by people who looked like me, I was opened to a new world of history, fiction, sci-fi and more,” High said. “I became a walking advertisement for these works and words written by BIPOC writers. Octavia’s Bookshelf is a space where readers of all walks of life can enjoy these books, a space to find your new BFF inside a book, a space to find community, enjoy a cup of coffee, read, relax, find unique and specially curated products from artisans from around the world and in our neighborhood.”

 

Last year, the store was burglarized, launching an outpouring of support from the community.

 

“Pasadena Monthly” airs at 5 p.m. PT on the fourth Friday of every month on Pasadena Media’s Arroyo Channel and streaming apps, available on channel 99 on AT&T U-verse, channel 32 on Charter Spectrum, YouTube, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku. The show is written, hosted and produced by Chapman, directed and edited by Jeffrey Stanfill, supervised by producer Jasiri Jenkins-Glenn, executive produced by Chris Miller and chief executive produced by George Falardeau, CEO and executive director of Pasadena Media.

 

This month’s episode will air April 26 and feature an interview with Dr. Bethany Ehlmann, president of the Planetary Society, a professor of planetary science at Caltech and director of Caltech’s Keck Institute for Space Studies.

 

Dr. Ehlmann served for many years also as a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her research focuses on the mineralogy and chemistry of planetary surfaces, remote sensing techniques and instruments, astrobiology, and science policy and outreach. She is principal investigator of the NASA Lunar Trailblazer small satellite mission to map water on the Moon.  Much of her other recent scientific work has focused on unraveling Mars' environmental history: she is a member of the science teams for the Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity), the CRISM imaging spectrometer on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover, and the Mars 2020 rover (Perseverance). She was also an affiliate of the Dawn orbiter team during its exploration of Ceres. She is co-investigator on the upcoming EMIT mission, a space station-based imaging spectrometer to explore dust source regions, and is working to propose mission concepts for ocean worlds, Venus, and asteroids.

 

In the space policy arena, Bethany is presently a member of the National Academies Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science. She is also vice-chair of the Mars chair and a member of the Steering Committee for the National Academies Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey 2023-2032. She has also served on the science policy committees of presidential candidates. In 2018, she published the children’s book Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System with National Geographic. Since 2018, she has served on the board of the Planetary Society, where Bill Nye the Science Guy serves as CEO.

 

“This is must-watch television each month for everyone who cares about this city,” Falardeau said.

 

Last year, Chapman won two 1st place journalism awards from the Los Angeles Press Club, as well as two 3rd place awards and two finalist positions. He has won a total of 10 awards from the LA Press Club in recent years, including three 1st place awards. In 2022, the previous iteration of the show, “NewsRap Local,” won a 2nd place award in News Programming at the Alliance for Community Media West’s WAVE video awards.

 

Guests on “Pasadena Monthly” and “NewsRap Local” have included Congress member Judy Chu; Congress member Adam Schiff; Assembly member Chris Holden; Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo; Pasadena city manager Miguel Márquez; LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger; JPL director Dr. Laurie Leshin; and many others.

 

Chapman was the youngest elected official in LA County when he served on the Altadena Town Council at age 19. He has served on a number of local boards and wrote hundreds of articles for two dozen print and digital publications, including KPCC/LAistAlta JournalHuffington PostLA Weekly, Irish PostBerkeley Political ReviewPasadena Weekly, Pasadena Star-NewsPasadena Now and many others. He was a professional child actor who starred in dozens of movies, TV shows, commercials, and plays. He previously served as Communications Officer for USC’s Pacific Council on International Policy and currently serves as the District 6 Council Liaison/Field Representative to Pasadena Vice Mayor Steve Madison.

 

Learn more at justindouglaschapman.com and pasadenamedia.org.


Read the March 2024 issue of Justin Chapman's free Substack email newsletter, featuring news about his show "Pasadena Monthly" being named a finalist for two video awards in the Alliance for Community Media West’s WAVE (Western Access for Video Excellence) Awards, the latest episode of “Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman” featuring an interview with Rose Bowl CEO and General Manager Jens Weiden who broke the news on the show that the Rose Bowl will host the semi-finals and finals of men’s and women’s soccer at the 2028 Olympics, his latest story about how Hunter S. Thompson wrote part of the cult classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas just outside the border of Pasadena in March and April 1971, book recommendations, and more!


Fear and Loathing in Pasadena

In March and April 1971, Hunter S. Thompson wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the book that made him a literary icon and created a whole new style of journalism called gonzo—and he wrote it right outside the border of Pasadena

 

By Justin Chapman, 3/30/2024

 

Fifty-three years ago this month, writer Hunter S. Thompson traveled to Las Vegas for the first of two weekends that would ultimately inform his seminal book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. It was his first experiment what he came to call gonzo journalism—a term actually coined by Boston Globe Magazine editor Bill Cardoso after reading Thompson’s June 1970 article “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” in Scanlan’s Monthly. 

 

After that first drug-fueled weekend in Vegas, Thompson drove back to Southern California and checked into the Ramada Inn (now the Le Méridien Pasadena Arcadia Hotel) just outside Pasadena city limits at Colorado Blvd. and Huntington Dr. in Arcadia, just across the street from Santa Anita Racetrack. There, he typed up his notes from the weekend which turned into the first part of his cult classic novel.

 

Fresh off his narrow loss in the November 1970 campaign for sheriff of Aspen—in which he ran on the Freak Power ticket, shaved his head in order to call the incumbent sheriff his “long-haired opponent,” and released a platform that included changing Aspen’s name to “Fat City” and decriminalizing drugs—Thompson began reporting on the burgeoning Chicano movement in Los Angeles, prompted by his friend Oscar Zeta Acosta. Acosta, a lawyer, activist and author who also ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in LA County, would later become the inspiration for the character Dr. Gonzo in Fear and Loathing. 

 

Thompson was writing a story called “Strange Rumblings in Aztlan” for Rolling Stone about the August 1970 killing of LA Times reporter Ruben Salazar by an LA County Sheriff’s deputy’s tear gas canister during an anti-war demonstration in East LA, and exploring whether it was pre-meditated and the journalist was targeted.

 

In East LA, Thompson was having trouble separating Acosta from the Chicano activists who were suspicious of the gringo journalist in their midst. Acosta couldn’t speak openly in front of them to his friend, so Thompson and Acosta drove across town to the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel for a drink. There, Thompson took a call from Sports Illustrated, which asked him to cover the upcoming Mint 400 off-road motorcycle and dune buggy race in Las Vegas, sponsored by the Mint Hotel and Casino. The two men saw it as an opportunity to get out of town, so on March 20, 1971, they rented a Chevrolet convertible, which they dubbed the Great Red Shark, and drove into the desert. And that’s where Fear and Loathing starts off.

 

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold,” Thompson’s legendary intro begins.

 

After covering the race, Acosta went back to LA to attend a court hearing, leaving the drugs, a loaded .357 Magnum and an expensive hotel bill with Thompson. In a panic, Thompson fled the hotel without paying and drove to the Ramada Inn near Pasadena to type up his notes.

 

Sports Illustrated subeditor Pat Ryan had asked Thompson to write a quick 500-word story about the motorcycle race, but after Thompson submitted a 15,000-word manuscript about his drug-fueled frenzy in Vegas, Sports Illustrated editor Tom Vanderschmidt “aggressively rejected” it during a call with Thompson.

 

On April 22, 1971, Thompson wrote in a letter to Vanderschmidt, “Sooner or later you’ll see what your call (to me) set in motion—a fantastic mushroom. Tomorrow I’m going back to Las Vegas for another bout with the swine. Very heavy duty. Meanwhile, tell whoever Pat Ryan is that I’m right on the verge of sending her those 500 words she wants. I offered her the true Gonzo interpretation, but she insisted on a small mess of pottage. People like that should be sent back to answering flip-buzzers. Anyway, your instinct was right. The Lord works in wondrous ways. Your call was the key to a massive freak-out. The result is still up in the air, and still climbing. When you see the final fireball, remember that it was all your fault. Okay, and thanks again for calling. Sincerely, Hunter.”

 

He already knew he had something special before finishing the book, even if Sports Illustrated couldn’t see it. Thompson said gonzo journalism is a style of reporting based on William Faulkner’s idea that the best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism, in which the reporter records events on their notebook as they happen, then sends in the notebook for publication without editing—essentially stream of consciousness reporting. The writer must also be a participant in the scene, while he’s writing it. Though he added that Fear and Loathing was a failed experiment in gonzo journalism, though many disagree with him on that point.

 

On April 20, 1971, from his home in Woody Creek, Colorado, Thompson wrote in a letter to author Tom Wolfe, “Here’s the final version (of Part One) of that Raoul Duke in Las Vegas thing. [Rolling Stone editor] Jann [Wenner] said he gave you an earlier, now obsolete version—although in some ways I like the early shot better, because it moves faster. I’ve found that it’s almost impossible to sustain that kind of speedy madness for 10,000 words. I’m still working on Part Two, but it’s not working out so well. This is the kind of thing that has to be done in a straight run, I think, and all in one place.



“The first draft of Part One, for instance, was written by hand on Mint Hotel stationery during an all-night drunk/drug frenzy while I waited for dawn to come up so I could flee without paying. I typed the section you have in a motel in Pasadena, but changed hardly anything from the original crazed draft. Then I left it alone for about 10 days while I worked on that Chicano thing… and when I tried to get back on top of it, out here, I found my mind locking up every time I tried to write. This happens every time I leave the scene of a piece—physically and mentally—before actually writing it. So in terms of Gonzo Journalism (pure), Part One is the only chunk that qualifies—although even the final version is slightly bastardized.

 

“What I was trying to get at in this was [the] mind-warp/photo technique of instant journalism: One draft, written on the spot at top speed and basically un-revised, edited, chopped, larded, etc. for publication. Ideally, I’d like to walk away from a scene and mail my notebook to the editor, who will then carry it, un-touched, to the printer. But I think that will take a while to hash out.

 

“I just wanted you to see that Raoul Duke is pushing the frontiers of ‘new journalism’ a lot further than anything you’ll find in Hell’s Angels [Thompson’s first book]. I told some creep from Sports Illustrated that I had this weird account of the thing they sent me out to cover, but they didn’t even want to look at it. Just send us a 500-word text block, they said… because we need something, after all, to explain these incredible bills you ran up. So I’ll send them their caption after I finish the main gig, which should be today or tomorrow.”

 

Thompson promptly sold the 15,000-word story to Rolling Stone, then headed back to Vegas with Acosta for the second weekend to cover the National District Attorneys’ Association’s four-day conference, the Third National Institute on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, which began April 26, 1971, at the Dunes Hotel.

 

This time, Thompson rented a white Cadillac convertible, dubbed the White Whale, and checked into the Flamingo Hotel and Casino.

 

“Mr. Acosta will meet me there with the tools of our hellish trade,” Thompson wrote to his literary agent Lynn Nesbit on April 23.

 

“It’s a very strange feeling to walk into a room full of 1000 cops with a head full of mescaline and listen to them telling each other about the terrors of the ‘drug problem,’” Thompson wrote to his book editor at Random House, Jim Silberman, on May 9.

 

He sold that second part to Rolling Stone as well, then sold both parts to Random House as the book it eventually became, which finally satisfied his commitment to the publisher to write a book about “the death of the American dream,” a topic he had struggled to put on paper for the past several years.

 

Wolfe later called Fear and Loathing “a scorching, epochal sensation.”

 

Thompson originally thought of calling the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Raoul Duke—Doctor of Journalism. He also considered writing a third part to the book that would feature an interview with the owner of the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino.

 

“The night before I left, this last time [in April], I found the American Dream, and it might be necessary to go back and drill some wisdom out of the freak who put it together,” he wrote to Wenner.

“If he’s the stone-Alger freak that he almost has to be, on the evidence, then I think it would be worthwhile to go down there and observe him at close range,” he wrote in a May 9, 1971, letter to Silberman. “Maybe get some insight into how his gig was done, along with some inside wisdom on the financial/leverage ethic of Las Vegas. Only a genuine freak could have created the Circus-Circus. Which is where I finally found the American Dream… not an easy thing to explain in a few words. What began as a joke and a casual rip-off somehow developed into a serious quest that incredibly yielded up the Main Fruit. I’m fairly certain about what I finally discovered down there, but whether the combined narrative of Vegas 1 & 2 will support that kind of massive conclusion is something we can only guess at right now.”

 

Later in 1971, Thompson traveled to Saigon in South Vietnam to cover the ongoing war. In a letter to Nesbit, he wrote that he planned to return to the United States from Vietnam in spring 1972 and “run for President on the Freak Power ticket—a Man on a Weird Horse.”

 

Before he left, though, Thompson learned that Rolling Stone would not be covering his expenses from his first trip to Vegas in March like he thought. On May 9, 1971, he sent a scathing letter to the editor who prepared the Fear and Loathing syndication for the magazine, writing, “I had you pegged from the start. If I were you I’d get my ass back to Azusa, or wherever that rotten place was that I got trapped in.”

 

He’s presumably referring to Arcadia, and the Ramada Inn near Pasadena where he typed up his notes that became the first part of his classic book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.