2, 1997 was my first day of college . . . like you care. September
2, 1997 was also the first day of the Epitaph Summer Nationals. The
what? The Epitaph Summer Nationals. A three-day- long showcase
of all the bands on Epitaph records and it's newly- formed sister
label Hellcat Records. The shows were held at the Roxy in New York
City, and cost a whopping six bucks a night.
was at the Warped Tour at Randall's Island late in the summer of 1997
and someone handed me a flyer for an upcoming series of concerts at
The Roxy. This wasn't unusual as it's next to impossible to make your
way through the Warped Tour without someone handing you a sticker
or a flyer or a sampler CD about once every seven or eight feet. I
took a quick glance at the flyer and got ready to throw it away. Instead,
I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at it in awe. The names on
it were Union 13, Ten Foot Pole, Down By Law, H2O, The Bouncing Souls,
VooDoo Glow Skulls, The Slackers, Hepcat, The Descendents, Pennywise,
The Pietasters, U.S. Bombs, NOFX, and a bunch more! I said the obligatory
"Holy Shit!" and resigned myself to attend at any cost.
As it turned out, the good people at Epitaph, mainly our pal Kathy,
were good enough to let us in, and good enough to let us hang around
with the bands and take a few pictures too. Gotta love Kathy, she
always comes through. Anyway . . .
Mike: I got to the Roxy four full hours before show time, as I had nothing else to do between the end of my first day of college and the start of the show. I hung around and talked to a few of the Bouncing Souls guys, and waited and waited some more. 7 PM finally rolled around and The Dwarves hit the stage to officially kick off the 1997 Epitaph Summer Nationals. They got things started with a bang . . . well actually, they just played one song, wrecked all their shit, threw a pizza into the crowd, and walked off the stage. Fuck, I love rock n roll.
Ray: I missed The Dwarves, but I understand they did one song, destroyed their drum kit, and threw a pizza into the crowd. I feel bummed because I could have used a slice. Then SNFU no showed, but the Pietasters came on and knocked me out. They're a big Ska band with a big sound, a party band with a cocktail piano and snap your finger suits. If they were around in the forties, they may have been the dance band on a cruise ship headed to South America Ricky Ricardo and The Orchestra, ya know? I mean that all in a complimentary way. For my money, they turned in the best set of the night.
After three Ska sets in a row from The Slackers, The Pietasters, and
Voodoo Glow Skulls (who's drummer played naked, or close to it), finally
it was time for the Bouncing Souls. The Descendents were supposed to
headline night one of the Summer Nationals but had to back out at the
last minute. The Souls, who were supposed to play on the third night,
stepped up. I asked the Souls how they felt about headlining, and they
said, "It's cool, it's like testing your stuff." Then they
added, "After all, this is our turf!"
Mike: Well the second night of the Summer Nationals boasted the most bands I wanted to see. The schedule included The Joykiller, Down By Law, Pennywise, and H2O. That's tough to beat. Up first was the LA hardcore outfit, Union 13. I talked to their guitar player Jose, and he told me that not only had they never played New York before, they've never toured. He said playing in New York was "pretty rad." They rocked.
Ray: After Ten Foot Pole and The Humpers came Down By Law, who I really enjoyed. They reminded me of The Clash, The Bobby Fuller Four, The Syndicate of Sound, and what my generation used to call garage rock. That's what I was thinking when they played "The Kids are Alright" by The Who. The light went on. That's the rub isn't it? Pete Townshend is the godfather of punk. Everyone's really doing the early Who in one way or another, and this group was doing it better than The Who ever did! Fantastic!
Mike: After Down By Law, came the hometown favorites, or at least my personal favorites, H2O. They played a good mix of older stuff and stuff from their forthcoming Epitaph debut. "Spirit of 84," "Family Tree," and "Everready" were my favorites.
Ray: At one point during H2O's set, Toby, the singer, stopped the music and addressed a problem. "Hey Mr. Bouncer. Hey, Mr. Fucking Bouncer. That's our booking agent you've got there. These are real good people. Please don't beat them up." And then another band member added "Unless you want a thousand kids beating your ass!" Everything worked out. Well done lads.
I talked to Fletcher from Pennywise at some point, and asked him what
he thought about headlining the show. He said, "I'm excited about
playing, but I don't really know if we're headlining. There are some
really great bands playing tonight. Sure, we're going on last, but it's
more like everyone is playing together than it is Pennywise is headlining."
Fletcher was being modest, they definitely earned the right to call
themselves headliners! Pennywise closed out the day with a set so good
it was scary! "Perfect People," "Go Away," "Every
Single Day," Fight Till You Die." AWESOME. Then it all came
to a head when they closed with "Bro Hymn" and so many people,
literally hundreds, rushed the stage. Toby from H2O was able to climb
onto the speakers, and stage dive into the crowd ON THE STAGE! It was
absolutely insane, and one of the wildest things I've ever seen.
Ray: NOFX who closed out the Summer Nationals, were stunning!