The first band to play was Wulfen Rag, who embodies a certain brand of punk that makes those of us who were in high school during the ‘90s just a tad bit nostalgic. Call it scruffy street punk if you will—I’ll just call it rad. The singer was wearing a U.S. Bombs T-shirt and had a small, home-made Palestinian flag stitched onto a pirate flag draped over his amp. Check and check. What always gets me about this band is the absolute abandon with which their drummer slams those sticks onto the skins. It’s fun, it’s loose, and it’s so earnest I can’t stop from smiling each time, on the inside at least. The songs are really well crafted and you can see the amount of time and effort John Mule put into writing them. The newest member of this outfit, Mathew Hart, has really filled out the rhythm section, adding in those sweet bass lines reminiscent of another great Matt, Mr. Freeman. You know, from the ‘90s. Before wrapping up their set, which included a really good Badlands cover, they handed the mic over to the gentleman who is heading up the immigrant rights project.
This guy really knew his shit. My wife and I have been going through the immigration process for her and it can be quite daunting. She has a bachelor’s degree and operated the international shipping and receiving wing of a large company. I’m an English major who works for the county filling out government forms. Between the two of us, we shared a lot of stress, confusion, and—let’s be honest—fear. He pointed out the fact that a big part of what he wanted to do was help people not be taken advantage of by the “notarios” who prey on uneducated illegal aliens, many times costing them more than just their hard-earned money, but their freedom as well. This usually happens with “notarios” having these people submit incorrect documents which inevitably lead to trouble, all in the name of making a buck. A lot of the poorest immigrants are out in the valley doing field work and from what I’ve heard, it’s a rough place to be brown. Hearing the speech really made me wish I had enough money to donate to their cause.
Next up were Spokenest, a husband-wife two-piece hailing from Highland Park. This might not be exactly what you would expect to rise from the ashes of the originators of slop punk, God Equals Genocide, yet it’s a very interesting evolution of sound. I feel Spokenest can really fill a room sonically with their approach. Riffs that pull you in and beats that blow you away leave those lucky enough to witness their live show baffled that such a wall of sound can emanate from two seemingly soft spoken individuals. Their set was short, tight, and really loud. I don’t want to call it post-punk, so let’s just say it’s well thought out music not trying to fit into a niche played by pretty much the punkest people I’ve met.
Summer Vacation is over. That’s never a happy statement. But, what if you could go straight into Winter Break from there? This is hypothetical. I’m thirty years old and poor. I won’t get another break until I retire or die. Hypothetically though, I would be happy but still miss things exclusive to Summer Vacation, namely Sean Arenas. That’s a really wordy way of telling you Sean is no longer in the band and the remainder of the members have decided to carry on under the witty banner of Winter Break. They continue to play very emotive music in the vein of that thing we call punk. Don’t waste your time thinking about labels when it comes to this band—just enjoy the awesome music. It’s so heartfelt and raw, I can’t help but get super excited every time I see them play. If you were thinking about jumping off the bandwagon, don’t; they’ve still got it, and they’re still willing to drive all the way to the middle of nowhere to support a good cause.
I left that night with ringing ears, a cool membership card, and a reaffirmation that punk is not dead, because we’re still alive and trying.