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.