Late September in New England is, for all intents and purposes, quite literally perfect. It’s that glorious time of year where the air is crisp and the leaves are starting to turn a wide array of warm colors and the sun is still high enough in the sky to keep you from freezing but not too high in the sky that you don’t need a light hoodie layered with probably a heavier hoodie and/or maybe a flannel/denim combination when the wind picks up or the shadows get long. And on one such spectacularly picture-perfect Saturday afternoon recently, the rolling hills of central Massachusetts were filled with the dulcet, three-chord sounds of a daylong music and libations festival. Okay, so it was a parking lot in downtown Worcester…but actually now that I think about it, that’s quite honestly just about the ideal locale for a punk rock and beer festival…
That’s right, the liberty-spiked masses descended upon the parking lot behind the Worcester Palladium for the 2022 installment of the Punk In Drublic festival. By yours truly’s count, it was the festival’s third stop in Massachusetts since it kicked off in 2018 (the initial stop was in Brockton of all places, while this marked the second annual stop in The Heart Of The Commonwealth – yes that’s Worcester’s real nickname and no, that’s not intended to be ironic. I know, right?)
ANYWAY, speaking of Worcester, the city’s beloved No Trigger kicked off the festivities in the middle of the afternoon. I think it’s a pretty smart move by the festival’s management (read as: Fat Mike and crew) to open the gates and start the beer testing well before the music starts; it gets a decent sized crowd to turn out at a comparatively early time to begin what will be a long day of rocking and rolling. The Worcester-based sextet No Trigger, fresh off the heels of the release of their dynamite new album Dr. Album (Red Scare Industries), set a pretty high bar for the rest of the bands that were to follow with a dynamic, full throttle, tight-as-a-drum set.
Night Birds were next out of the shoot and kept the energy level at an equally high level. In what came as a bit of a surprise to more than a few of us in the crowd, the band announced that this particular show would serve as their second-to-last show as a band. Effing bummer, because the five-piece lineup (which I’d never seen) played as tight a show as I’d seen their previous four-man editions play. Maybe they found a different level knowing that it was the last show on the books (plans for a final show are as yet unannounced) but it seemed pretty special from where I was standing.
Hitting third in the order on this particular day were TSOL. In my experience, it can be a bit of a coin-flip how a comparatively younger crowd will receive a band of 70s/80s stalwarts, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how the crowd fist-pumped and circle-pitted along as the inimitable Jack Grisham and his band of melody makers (longtime partners Ron Emory on guitar and Mike Roche on bass along with more recent addition Antonio Val Hernandez on drums) tore through a set comprised largely of decades-old punk rock classics. Seriously, check Hernandez’s Instagram – old school Worcester showed up!
Batting cleanup were none other than SoCal punk icons Face To Face. In the interest of full disclosure, Face are the band I’ve seen more than any other, no matter the genre. I’ve seen a half-dozen different versions of the lineup over the years, including about a dozen shows in the current Trever/Scott/Danny/Dennis version. With that in mind, Punk In Drublic was the best I’ve heard them sound in quite a while. No doubt fueled by the thousands of avid punk rock fans in attendance, the band played an hour-long set that did a pretty good job of mixing in ‘the old’ (“I’m Trying,” “No Authority”) and ‘the new’ (“No Way Out But Through,” a surprising “Farewell Song”) all with a vintage, early 90s energy.
The evening’s penultimate spot belonged to none other than Descendents. I’m having a tough time finding the correct words to use to describe the legendary band’s set and honestly, what I keep coming back to is that it made me happy. To call the quartet anything less than iconic is to do them a tremendous disservice, and performances like this one prove exactly why. Not only was the crowd opposite the band (across what had to have been a thirty-foot-deep security/photographer pit that I both greatly appreciated and found to be tremendous overkill) fully engaged in the band’s set, but the stage itself was more full of revelers than at any other point in the festival. The band plowed through more than two dozen songs in an hour-and-change, representing all parts of their four-plus decade career together. (Personal highlight: “I’m The One” into “Bikeage” into “Thank You.” Good grief.)
The grand finale spot of course belonged to none other than NOFX. In many ways, the quartet have been the clown princes of punk rock for three decades, and that’s more than a little by design (are they breaking up next year or aren’t they?). That can lead to some pretty memorable and certainly widely-varied live performances; it is “punk rock” after all. Yet on this night (and I know I’ve said this a lot in this article but that doesn’t make it untrue), the band were as tight as I’ve ever seen them. The setlist of somewhere around thirty songs pulled from all points of their storied career, from “Stickin’ In My Eye” up through “I Love You More Than I Hate Me” and was interspersed with the requisite banter especially from Fat Make and El Hefe, who riffed on everything from the aforementioned breakup rumors to the fact that people allegedly live in Ogunquit, Maine, to the fact that they were actually playing well, all in rapid-fire succession.
It really was an awesome and fun and in many ways picture-perfect day that was well worth the trek out to the fart of Massachusetts, filled with good times and great energy from bands and crowd alike. Check out more pictures below!
Face To Face Slideshow
Night Birds Slideshow
No Trigger Slideshow