The first large-scale rock festival since pandemic restrictions have been eased in the United States took place on Saturday (May 29th) in Tempe, Arizona. Punk in the Park Arizona featured Pennywise, Face To Face, Strung Out, Good Riddance, H2O, and more.
Celebrating the return of live music, the first-ever Punk in the Park fest was staged at Tempe’s Big Surf waterpark. Among the other bands on the bill were Voodoo Glow Skulls, The Bombpops, and Slaughterhouse, with most acts playing their first show to an actual live audience in well over a year.
With the thermometer pushing more than 100 degrees, the doors opened just after 1 p.m., and fans quickly made their way into the temporarily waterless waterpark. Although more than 4,000 would eventually enter, there was plenty of room for everyone to remain socially distant if they wished, with more than a few wearing masks throughout the day.
Vendors at the festival included The Sidewalk Project, an organization that supports the wellness of the homeless, and Punk Rock and Paintbrushes, which is a collaborative group of musicians and artists helping to promote and bring together both art and music.
As far as the music, Southern California’s Slaughterhouse kicked off the festivities at precisely 1:20 p.m. With their punk meets death rock sound, the band quickly brought the crowd down to the front of the barricade, and set the tone for the rest of the day. Next up were The Bombpops, who performed tracks off of their 2020 release Death in Venice Beach, playing some songs in front of an audience for the first time ever. The Voodoo Glow Skulls kicked everything up a notch with their frantic energy supporting their new record, Livin’ the Apocalypse.
Hardcore legends H2O were up next, and the band did not disappoint, playing to perhaps the biggest circle pit of the day. Santa Cruz-based Good Riddance kept the pits going, followed by Strung Out, who re-energized the fans who had been baking in the sun all day long.
Before Face To Face hit the stage, they took a moment to pose for a picture with U.S. Army veteran Bill Klatt, who served as a Sergeant from 1989 through 1994. The Southern California act then put on a 45-minute set that primed the crowd for Pennywise.
Headliners Pennywise closed out the day, with original members Jim Lindberg (vocals), Fletcher Dragge (guitars), and Byron McMackin (drums), along with longtime bassist Randy Bradbury, delivering more than 30 years of songs to an enthusiastic crowd. A sea of people who’ve been cooped up for more than a year collectively joined together for a cathartic experience, and reacted as expected to an energetic day’s worth of punk rock.
When it was all said and done, Punk in the Park Arizona pretty much looked like a pre-pandemic festival, with circle pits, body surfing, and a relatively large crowd. Pandemic safety measures were in place (for the few who chose to remain socially distant), and overall, the festival seemed to go off without a hitch, hopefully kicking off what will be a successful and safe 2021 summer and fall festival season.
See fan-filmed video below, followed by Heavy Consequence’s exclusive Punk in the Park Arizona photo gallery (click to enlarge and scroll through). All pictures by Raymond Ahner.