Punk Rock Bowling, the Love Affair and the 805!

In the words of the Sterns, as they are the ones who started this whole fiasco or romance:

Punk Rock Bowling was started back in 1999 as a way to bring the independent music community together for an annual party. It has since grown into a 3 day festival in downtown Las Vegas that brings out fans and bands alike from all over the world. Make no mistake, this is a PUNK ROCK festival and we feature some of the best bands over the past 35+ years, from the old school pioneers and classics to mainstays and up and comers. The brothers Stern have been heavily involved in the PUNK ROCK community since the late ’70′s and spend countless hours scouring their record collections, memories and abilities to reach out to old friends and new to put together an amazing line-up every year. This is a 3 day outdoor festival starting in the afternoon and features 9 great bands each day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday celebrated with 5,000 of your close personal punk rock friends and many new lifelong friends to be made. And if that’s not enough, there will be 4 late night club shows each night in smaller more intimate surroundings featuring more great bands as well as some special surprises. All in all, over 60 bands will perform throughout the weekend.

Honestly, I was never interested in bowling on any level at all, not even as a joke. I really don’t like wearing those rented ugly shoes, and the thought of athletes foot x 1,000! NO THANKS! The feeling of being on display, with the approach, holding the ball, on the lane, it sure felt like everybody was watching. Little did I know that they have really improved upon the shoes! Nobody was expecting a pro and if you think really hard about it; bowling alleys always have fried food and a bar!

For the most part, the last 20 years I have not lived in the area (Southern California) and sadly lost touch with many of my friends. Do to unfortunate circumstances I landed back in Oxnard at my parents’ house due to illness and no health insurance. Since, I was in a lot of pain, I wasn’t feeling too social and it wasn’t common knowledge, within my group of old friends, that I was back in town. Over the years, a few friends have invited me to Punk Rock Bowling and once again it just didn’t appeal to me, but my friend Ismael (Dr. Know fame, and now False Confession fame) said he was going and it was fun and that I should go. I was already in the area, but it was still a 3 hour drive.

I headed down to LA to spend the day with a friend, her boyfriend had just died. Of course, it was depressing, and due to my own situation, I was even more depressed. My problem wasn’t exactly life threatening, although, I was very sick. I was feeling ok and really needed to be in a more positive place and around my friends. It was about 9pm, I pulled out the map and decided to take the drive to Las Vegas. I called Ismael and made him promise me, once I got there, he would be there to tell me where he was. I was told not to worry, there will be people you know everywhere. I found this hard to believe. Yeah sure, maybe the Los Angeles folks would see all their friends, but the little 805 chick see familiar faces? Yeah right!

The drive was great, nobody on the freeway for 2 hours, cruise control set and my arrival, into what I would now understand, as a vacation with 100 of my closest friends. The chain of events that entailed, I couldn’t have predicted as my first experience of Punk Rock Bowling 2010! What was in store for me was an answer to my health issues, reintroduction to punk photography, and a whole bunch of positive good old fashioned Nardcore love.

So, I arrive at Sunset Junction and realize that this place is huge, which in reality isn’t, but having to find somebody in a casino is a big pet peeve of mine, as well as a panic attack waiting to happen! I don’t like crowds anymore and being sick, on high doses of painkillers, probably added to the terror of walking into this casino that was supposedly filled with all my friends. I sigh and proceed to text Ismael:

Kathy: Ismael where are you?

Ismael: In the middle of the casino at the bar?

Me: Are you sure I can find it?

Ismael: Yes, just ask when you get in, you will immediately see people you know everywhere.

Me: Sure!

Within less than 15 seconds of walking through the main doors past the check in, low and behold, I see John Phanuef (Illrepute). He didn’t recognize me. I say John, nothing, a little louder, John, no response, finally I belt out a bloodcurdling, JOHN! He turns around and was shocked to see me. So, yes Ismael was right? But how could this be? Why would the better part of the 805 be at this bowling event? John went with me over to the bar, where Ismael, Dave H., Mandy C., Sandra B., Ian H., Davie H., and many others, of whom, I had spent the better part of my youth with.

The next day at the bowling alley was even more amazing. The, so called, unpopular girl might as well have been the prom queen as I walked along the lanes. Essentially, “The Royality of” Nardcore greeted me; with surprised looks and huge hugs, Larry White, Dave Casillas, Tim McDuffie, Eddie Burgos, Becca Porter, Tony Cortez, Jimmy Callahan, John Phanuef, and too many to name. I was starting to see the light, that is — Punk Rock Bowling

Over the years I had lost my desire to shoot bands or anything for that matter. I had not stayed up to date with digital, only possessing film cameras! I was still bitter that digital printers ate up my career as an old school photographic black and white printer. Admittedly, the lineup (DRI, TSOL, 7 Seconds, Adolescents, The Dickies, CH3, The Crowd, Illrepute) of bands the night Illrepute opened was pretty much a whole evening of the early 80s Goldenvoice shows in LA. I felt pretty nostalgic on so many levels. Photography introduced me to so many of my friends, as a newcomer to punk, I used to bring my camera to shows and shoot all the bands. It really helped ,the “oh so very shy girl,” meet people and within only a few shows I was already getting asked to see the proofs of the shots. I shouldn’t have been surprised that John Phanuef of Illrepute asked if I brought my camera. I told him I had not, and I didn’t even have a digital camera. I had been their photographer back in the 80s. I was told I was Illrepute’s official photographer. (Alan Snodgrass would beg to differ, but that is why I have asked for a few of his shots for this article.)

And like always, my friends coming to my rescue, I was given a backstage pass, so that I could watch the bands and stay out of the way of the crowds. I was only 90lbs, at the time, and pretty weak. I suppose it was fitting that John decided to let me use his digital camera to shoot them, pretty ironic too. It had a lot of bells and whistles, that I didn’t understand, but John tried as quickly as possible to show me how to use it. He’s sitting on the steps backstage putting the lens back on the camera, while handing it to me, he said, “Now please don’t lose it or set it…… “ he stopped talking, “Oh, look at who I’m saying this too!” This was the man that once saw fit to toss my camera over a chain link fence, to shoot the Big Rusty Balls cover! Talk about being mortified when that happened! I hadn’t shot bands in years, probably 10 years, I really didn’t think I would be any good at it any more. It took a few bands, a few shots, I finally felt like I was back in the swing of things.

Later that night, walking through the casino, I spot John at a late night diner. I sat down with him and a few friends, we decided to look at the shots. I had not ever had that experience. Photos weren’t instant in my old world. As we scrolled through them on the tiny screen on the back of the camera, you could see the gradual progression of me getting my so called sea legs back. John kept noticing every band had more and more shots that represented how I shoot. He kept saying, “Oh that’s a Kathy shot!” I now wanted a digital camera and my friends back! A conversation ensued about me getting a camera but that led back to the original reason why I was back in Oxnard, my health, the lack of money for surgery, let alone a camera. We won’t get into that but PRB got me back into photography and it appeared it was the segue that got me back my health; due to a benefit being planned to help pay for my trip to India for surgery.

Fast forward, as I think I got a little off topic: I tried really hard to find the overall 805 connection to Punk Rock Bowling. My first thought was the infamous Becca Porter. She’s from the 805, used to work for BYO and still pretty darn close with the Sterns. I asked Becca, “What is the connection?” She said, “Oh we are just a rad group of people.” It could be that one of our hometown band’s, Agressions first album was released by BYO! I know that at some point our teams entering PRB grew and grew and more 805er’s became involved. It might be that Davie Holifield and Tony Cortez (Illrepute) started having Sunday Bowling here locally in Oxnard at Wagon Wheel Bowl. Tony has also organized our own mini Nardcore Punk Rock Bowling events which has attracted many of our honorary 805er’s into town to bowl and compete. We now have a league on Thursday nights as well. All you have to do is look around Punk Rock Bowling and you will see the 805 patch probably over 100x. If that isn’t 805 love, I don’t know what is!

So shall I thank the Stern Brothers, for this event and how important it was for me and why it is important that it actually represents a full circle of punk photography in my life. The very first punk photo that I shot and that actually came out was of Youth Brigade, it was of Shawn Stern. It was the only shot that came out on the roll. I didn’t know what I was doing. It was probably 1982 Goleta Valley Community Center. Youth Brigade was the beginning of me getting into photography and shooting bands and they once again reignited my love of shooting punk bands more than 30 years later. My personal 805 connection to PRB, Thanks Guys i.e. THE STERNS!
Ready to shoot the bands! Ready to shoot the bands!

Special thanks goes out to:

The Sterns – Punk Rock Bowling

Big Wheel Magazine was kind enough to share some of their team photos of 2012.

Digital Diversion/Alan Snodgrass

Tony Cortez


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