- by Tom Dumarey
What started as an idea back in 1999 between brothers Shawn and Mark Stern to throw a bowling party for their friends in the punk rock community and an excuse to head to Las Vegas, eventually morphed into what is now known as Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival. This year, the festival takes place from May 24-27 and boasts a line-up that features everyone from Rancid, Flag, The Damned and Descendents to Refused, The Vandals, The Specials, The Hives and The Stranglers along with club show by the likes of Killing Joke, Flipper, Sick Of It All, Nerf Herder and Save Ferris and many, many more. Click here for tickets!
We caught up with Mark to talk about all things Las Vegas. Which means that for once what happens in Las Vegas, somehow winds up smeared all over Punk Rock Theory.
PRT: What made you first fall in love with the city?
Mark: Well, I’m actually from Canada and moved to Los Angeles and don’t live in Las Vegas, but…. I am a card player, so I’ve been going to Las Vegas ever since I had my first fake I.D. (19 years old). Downtown Las Vegas was always my favorite part of the city as it was untouched and had the feel of the old days in the 50’ and ’60s. If you were a gambler, this is where you went because it had the best odds on dice, cheap food, drinks and hotels which was very different than the Vegas Strip with all the huge luxury resorts.
PRT: If you had to come up with a marketing slogan for the city, what would it be?
Mark: Sin City, the home of the biggest Punk festival in the U.S.
PRT: Best place to play?
Mark: For gambling, I like to play at The Golden Nugget. If you are talking about playing in a different way, then I would say a Spa Tower Suite at the Golden Nugget. You can do anything there.
PRT: Best place to go for a late night drink after the show?
Mark: Vegas is 24 hours, so you can get a drink anywhere you are. In downtown, my favorite places are The Backstage Bar which is one of the PRB venues and my good friend Big Daddy Carlos’ venue. Great room, great bands, and stiff drinks. Also, The Griffin which is an old-school bar with dark booths and good cocktails.
PRT: Best place to go for a late night snack after the drink after the show?
Mark: Nacho Daddy is the bomb. It’s open til 2 am with great, yes you guessed it, Nachos! Burritos, tacos, etc. they have great vegan burritos too — also Evil Pie on Fremont for the best pizza in downtown. After 2 am, you can hit any casino coffee shop for your usual late night greasy breakfast foods.
PRT: Best touristy thing to do in the city?
Mark: You can Zipline down 5 blocks of Fremont St., or just walk down the street and look at all the freaks, like old men wearing diapers and sucking on pacifiers (I didn’t make this up), Nuns with their tits out and other street “performers.” Go to Heart Attack Grill which serves milkshakes made with Butterfat, quadruple cheeseburgers and every other disgusting thing that someone who wants to kill themselves early can ingest. They have a scale in front, and if you weigh over 350 lbs, you eat for free. The spokesman for this place who weighed 575 lbs, died after eating there.
PRT: Best hidden spot in the city?
Mark: There are many, but a lot of them have been torn down. Chinatown has some great hole in the walls and is off the beaten path. I like to go to Piero’s Italian, which is an old school joint that Sinatra and Dean Martin used to hang out at.
PRT: One thing you would like to see changed in the city?
Mark: I would like to see Downtown restored to its original version. Take down the fancy light show in the middle of Fremont, but continue opening new bars, restaurants and night clubs. These are the things that set Downtown Vegas apart from the rest of the city. Stay away from the Vegas Glitz and bring back the Vegas style!
PRT: What's your best memory about the city?
Mark: I had the pleasure of performing at the Las Vegas Hilton (RIP) lounge for 2 weeks with my old band Royal Crown Revue. We had to put a deposit down for a key to the dressing room which used to be Elvis Presley’s. Walking to the room, you had to go through the entire casino, through the kitchen, and down all these hallways. It was like the scene out of Good Fellas. Once we got to the dressing room and saw how tiny it was with one mirror on the wall, a couch, and one chair, we never went back to that room for the next 2 weeks.
Also, I got to see Frank Sinatra perform at the Desert Inn (RIP). I was with a good friend of mine who is the son of Bobby Darin. We got the front row table, and Frank sent a bottle of champagne for us and gave us a shout out! What’s more Vegas than that???
PRT: Where in the city did you get your heart broken?
Mark: At the craps table
PRT: Is there a historical fact about your city that makes you chuckle?
Mark: That it was started by gangsters
PRT: Favorite song about your city you'd like to share, either yours or someone else's?
Mark: 'This Town' by Frank Sinatra, 'Punks in Vegas' by Bouncing Souls and 'Who’s going to be the first to OD at PRB' by NOFX