Words by Me, Photographs By Adam Ianniello
Like Travis Pastrana blasting his Suzuki over a fireball, the flyer for Gnarlytown suddenly appeared in my life. Its Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater-esque design of stencils, coupled with an asphalt-and-neon palette and no less than 14 logos and 6 different fonts, brought my attention to the one-day festival taking place in San Pedro, California, organized by rock station 95.5 KLOS. Pennywise and Rancid–a duo of Northern and Southern ‘90s California pop-punk heavyweights– were headlining, preceded by a part obvious and part head-scratching lineup of the Aquabats, Mike Watt, Rotting Out, Madball, Off!, and Action Bronson. Add in Travis Pastrana’s Nitro Circus and whatever Chris Cole’s “Rail Jam Invitational” is and you get one doozy of a day down at the port of Los Angeles.
A lifetime of saying the word “gnarly,” at times with absolute sincerity and others with hypocritical disdain, have not rendered me impervious to the irony of this sort of event. Nor have the many years of alternately enjoying and mocking the type of skate-punk music featured. It was, quite clearly, marketed directly at me. Did I take the bait? Shit yeah, I did. On a sweltering June afternoon my friend Adam, conveniently a photographer, and I secured our one-way ticket (ahem, press-passes) to Gnarlytown.
Pulling in to the festival, Adam and I were filled with excitement to lambast this obvious grab at SoCal Nostalgia. The most easily lampoonable event, the Rail Jam Invitational, was Chris Cole and friends (namely Billy Marks and some very hard-working Santa Cruz ams), skating an A-Ramp whose main feature was a box consisting of a Monster Energy-branded guitar. Needless to say: it was fucking gnarly. All jokes aside, I did see Chris Cole perfectly execute a switch frontside 360 flip — something I may never see in person again — and all skaters present tried their best to put on a show for the kids on the windy oceanside berth. With the skateboarding contained to one specific area and three interim time slots, the rest of the “bikes and boards” portion of the event was best experienced as bullet points:
- The Nitro Circus did indeed play out like a circus, ringleader and all, celebrating testosterone and fossil fuel. I’m sure there’s YouTube videos of it if that interests you.
- “Send It,” may enter the same mainstream spot in our language as “gnarly.”
- Rancid sounds identical to when I first heard them as a wannabe punk from New Jersey.
- The South Bay still heavily backs their hometown band, Pennywise.
- Unfortunately, I missed San Pedro’s hometown representative, Mike Watt.
- The “Southern California” pop-skate-punk scene seems to be alive and well and it takes place south and east of Los Angeles.
In the end, however, the people won us over. For all the possible gawking, mean-spirited joking, and actually valid indignation at the corporate world of punk consumption, the saving grace of Gnarlytown was its attendees. We met people who were there to see their favorite local bands, teach their kids how to mosh, or spend a Saturday in the sun with members of their community. As the day wore on and Adam and I spoke with more people about their experiences, we began to feel the joyous sincerity of everyone around us. They were not there to poke fun at how capitalism has co-opted their culture. They were there to fucking thrash, and they let us know it.
“I’m Troll! I’ve been in a few films. I’m an old school punk rocker. I’ve been around it for a while. I’m from LA. I’m a stagehand; I build a lot of stages and skatepark ramps like these. I got All Access, too!”
– Troll, Los Angeles, CA
“What brings us here today? Fucking…the bicycles and the skateboards! AND PENNYWISE!”
– Isaac (and family) San Bernardino, CA
“I’m here to fucking get faded and listen to some good shit.”
-Eric, Torrance, CA
“That shit just cruised up on my Facebook. I’m here to fucking tear shit up in the pit. We’re South Bay locals. Pennywise is my shit.”
– Austen, Lawndale, CA
“My dad wanted to bring me here for my first time. I’m probably most excited about the moshpit.”
– Finley, San Pedro, CA
“I came out to have a good time with some friends and listen to some good music, man. I was really super stoked to see Rotting Out and, of course, Rancid. You gotta keep it OG. “– –
– Jules (hair being braided) Pomona, CA
“We’re gonna go to the beach in the middle of the night!”
– Julia (braiding hair), Pomona, CA
“I’ve seen Pennywise four times but you can never get enough of it, you know? I’ve never seen Rancid, either, so I’m here for Rancid as well. I love Rancid.”
– Brett, Covina, CA
“We’re pretty drunk!”
“My son talked me into it. Thought I should get out of the house. I’m enjoying myself. The ramp is sick! That’s real bad, I’d like to do that. If I was riding my bike I’d do it!”
-Freddy, Norwalk, CA
“I’m the queen of Torrance!”
– Jamie (and companion), Torrance, CA
And some more without words: