Flag: The headliner for the final day — comprising former (some original) members of pioneering SoCal punk/hardcore band Black Flag, and Stephen Egerton of The Descendents — hadn’t even finished its main set before tired attendees began leaving en masse, and several more all but fled during its less-than-rousing encore, which, ironically, was demanded by way of a chant over the house music. Frankly, the performance could have ended at “Rise Above,” the most full-throated and passionate performance of the not-exactly-an-hour set. It would have been the perfect closer, the band already having ably executed and delighted the crowd with faster-paced and traditional Black Flag favorites like “Wasted” (which Egerton, in one of his many shining moments, kicked off with some Chuck Berry-style boogie), “Gimme Gimme Gimme” (which was nicely segued from “No More”) and “Six Pack” (which was fronted by vocalist-turned-guitarist Dez Cadena). Primary (and founding) singer Keith Morris held his own; while relatively uncharismatic, and often plagued with a poorly mixed mic (bassist Chuck Dukowski also was barely heard), he nonetheless projected with vigor and sincerity. All in all, a big win for the largely older punk audience. At one point, a guy to my left leaned over, smiling broadly, and said to me, “I can’t believe I’m watching this.” M.P.
Turbonegro: With its tongue-in-cheek homosexuality and dress, the Norwegian cult favorite is kinda like an offensive, punk Village People. Thankfully, it delivered on May 26 with the tallest stack of amps, the best lead guitarist (Knut “Euroboy” Schreiner), the best outfits, the loudest sing-a-longs; and even with a new English lead singer (Tony “Duke of Nothing” Sylvester), fell nowhere short of putting on a kick-ass rock ’n’ roll show that lived up to every bit of the hype that came with the rare Vegas performance. So good. J.J.
Wanda Jackson: The holy-shit booking on Sunday was the 75-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and former girlfriend of Elvis Presley, who played a sold-out club show at Backstage Bar and Billiards following the outdoor festival. Backed by an ace four-piece band, Jackson took the audience on what she called a “musical journey” of her career, including her 1959 Japanese hit “Fujiyama Mama” and tunes from her recent Jack White and Justin Townes Earle-produced records. Though she rocked hard enough for the boys, Jackson was truly the ladies’ choice, as evidenced by the hysterical young rockabilly girls smashed up against the front of the tiny stage singing loudly and screaming cries of adulation. Considering that the last time Jackson played Las Vegas was with Adele in front of 4,000 people at The Cosmopolitan, Sunday’s show was likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those lucky enough to be there. J.J.
The Damned: The veteran English quintet is hardly a traditional punk band. For one, it’s led by singer Dave Vanian, who could out-goth Peter Murphy in the wardbrobe department, and likely outcroon him as well. And it’s much more atmospheric, and inclined to flirt with other rock genres, than its American peers — though its set on May 25 wasn’t without its breakneck numbers, like “New Rose,” as well as its cheeky cover of The Beatles’ “Help!” (“Who’s worse, Lennon or McCartney?” asked guitarist Captain Sensible. “They’re both wankers!”) Opener “Love Song” revealed a blues influence, and as if to summarize its sonic range, the band closed with both parts of “Smash It Up,” which Lennon and McCartney themselves ought to have dug upon its 1979 release. Younger attendees should have walked away from the performance downloading Machine Gun Etiquette — from which most of the band’s setlist was culled — onto their iPhones. M.P.
Surrounded by Thieves: PRB also threw a bone to a few local bands, such as SBT. While given the tough task of being the Sunday opener, the tight four-piece with a classic hardcore punk sound made ample use of the large stage, exhibiting more energy and movement than some of the larger bands that played after them. “We’ve got 20 minutes to beat your asses, so let’s get tired before the rest of the bands come up,” singer Brandon Buck said to the roughly 60 people watching near the stage. J.J.
Devo: Another expander of punk boundaries had the honor of closing Saturday’s festivities, and the Ohio New Wave legends leveled the fest field with plenty of weapons at its disposal: a particularly robust mix of punk riffage and New Wave synthesizers, with an invigorating foundation of drumbeats hurtling the songs along; a presentation (LED screen, costumes) the other performing bands sure as hell didn’t have; a well-honed re-creation of the band’s satirical skronk rock, which showed no obvious signs of age; and plenty of commentary, mocking President Obama’s use of drone aircraft and, ahem, punk rock festivals (“Punks don’t stand in line!” bellowed Jerry Casale, to which various revelers shouted back their waiting times for beer). Devo’s hour was nearly perfect — any less would have been a gyp, and any more would have been overkill. It underscored punk’s unique sense of economy, which meant Punk Rock Bowling, fortunately, was just as good as defining the genre by what it is and should be as it was reminding us what it isn’t or shouldn’t be. M.P.