Every time I head out to San Bernadino, I tell myself it’s the last time. The ride is too long, the traffic too brutal, the parking too difficult, and, despite the invariably amazing lineup, no lineup could be good enough to be worth it all. And every time I am proved wrong.

It’s Not Dead Fest 2 is case and point.

Year one boasted some of the biggest names in the entire history of punk. The entire enterprise—to gather together the remaining punk bands, legends all, for a one day festival—I originally thought to be too tough for a second outing. Boy did Lyman and company prove me wrong. Not only did they gather an entire new crop of incredible bands, but they managed to get all bands I have never even seen before with the exception of two (which we will get to later).
I could not have been more stoked.

Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, A Wilhelm Scream, The Flatliners, The Mad Caddies, The Adicts, Reagan Youth, The Interrupters, GBH, The Buzzcocks, The Unseen, Madcap, Left Alone, Voodoo Glow Skulls…the list goes on and on. It reads both like a punk all-time-greats list and an old Vans Warped Tour Roster, reminding me just how prescient Mr. Lyman has always been with the vast majority of bands he has worked with and how integral his role has been in shaping the very history he is honoring with the Its Not Dead Fest…but that is an entire other article for another day.

Clambering out of the car into the oppressive San Bernardino heat, I booked it for the entrance. I could hear music already playing, despite still being there only an hour after doors. Unfortunately I missed Reagan Youth, who opened one of the four stages set up throughout the Glen Helen Amphitheater fairgrounds, but I managed to catch a very recent favorite of mine as they launched into an already rowdy set, the Interrupters. The Interrupters play like the perfect Rancid protégé—ska punk done absolutely impeccably with classic Distillers-era-Brody-Dalle-meets-Tim-Armstrong vocals that must have been dreamed up in the collective punk consciousness. This band is just that incredible. Their set was fun, acknowledging, and grateful. The day was off to a great start.

Mad Caddies were up next. They were one of the bands that originally got me into music in general, handed to me by a (very cool) teacher when I was in 8th grade. I have never gotten to see them live and have always wanted to. They didn’t disappoint. Their set was tight, each song sounding like its directly off the record but with a new kind of energy. It was workmanlike—largely without fanfare, but with a sense of purpose. If you don’t know their stuff you need to check out it all.

I cast my eyes over towards Slaughter and the Dogs and Guttermouth for a couple minutes each on the side stages. The use of four stages, staggered start times, and groupings of lineups was ingeniously engineered such that there was (just barely) enough time to sample all the stages and for each act to draw a sizeable crowd no matter where or when they played. I drifted over towards the Flatliners—one of two I had seen at all and the only one I have seen multiple times—and this set they topped every other performance of theirs I had ever seen. Their new record, Inviting Light, is absolutely stellar and it seems to have infused them with a new energy—they tore through their set and every single one of my favorite songs.

I wandered back to the mainstage to catch the last couple minutes of Good Riddance, another classic and essential band who I dearly love, but who I couldn’t make their set all the way. Russ Rankin and co, however, were in great if slightly laconic form. Rankin belted out songs with a wide grin but without much movement—though with the oppressive heat, who could blame him? GBH, The Selecter, and the Buzzcocks all followed and I drifted in and out. Not being an avid fan of any of them i concentrated on seeking out my bands of interest.

Number one of which, without doubt, was A Wilhelm Scream. They absolutely stole the entire day. Their high-octane energy, bounding back and forth across the stages and into the crowd, is a wonder to behold. If I could see them once a month or once a week I would absolutely never get tired of it. These Massachusetts technical skate punks are at the top of the game. They love every second of the whole ordeal and the only drawback to being a fan of the band is that they don’t release new music nearly often enough. Partycrasher is one of my favorite records of the last five years.

The Toasters, Down By Law, The Unseen, Madcap, and The Casualties all came in rapid succession. Between sucking down $5 waters and hiding in whatever scraps of shade provided by carnival equipment or scrubby fairground trees, I managed to at the very least catch the first two or three songs from just about everyone. By and large, too, not only did they prove that punk is not dead, but it is having a blast living, even if it is in its later years.

The Adicts, as expected, put on a show to remember as well. The consummate showmen, complete with costume changes, balloons, confetti, props…it was a whole production that felt like it was as much fun to put on as it was to watch.

By the time the headliners came around, however, I was absolutely exhausted. Leaning heavily against the fence I zoned out somewhat as i tried to listen to Rancid and Dropkick put on on-point shows while fighting inevitable sleep.

If there is a show that you, as a punk fan, absolutely must go to, it is probably It’s Not Dead Fest. No other festival or show has the ability to gather this type of group of bands together and run it as efficiently and largely without hitches as they do. They have, however, yet again created the absolutely incredible problem of trying to pull together an entire new crop of bands for It’s Not Dead Fest III. (though its going to be really fun coming up with our own lists–Strike Anywhere, AFI, Bad Brains, and Might Mighty Bosstones anybody?)