Review: Classic Chicago Punk Shines at 350 Fest
Summer music festival season is beginning, but still far from over. While it can be a bit of a hike for some, the 5th annual 350 Fest in south suburban Tinley Park was well worth the jaunt. This year featured an expanded lineup, with the fest running for a full three days last weekend.
The folks at 350 Brewing pulled out an impressive lineup, with punk rock cover supergroup Me First and the Gimme Gimmes headlining Friday, Boston ska legends The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Chicago punk icons Naked Raygun.
Direct Hit: Milwaukee’s Direct Hit! was a fantastic eye-opener on Friday afternoon.
Zebrahead: Saturday afternoon was a bit slow going. I (along with what seemed like a sizable chunk of the crowd) was still recovering from my hangover after Friday’s show, and though Mustard Plug and Iron Chic rousted things, Zebrahead was like chugging a pint of bourbon and chasing it with a cup of coffee. They’ve been around since the mid-’90s, but I never had a chance to catch these guys until the fest, and was not disappointed. Ali Tabatabaee spent almost as much time in the middle of the crowd as he did onstage, and the alien-suited backup singers and bartender were exactly the kind of joyful absurdity I was hoping to see.
Zebrahead wins #350fest for the night for having an alien bartender onstage pic.twitter.com/bfZhW9vu3W
— Aaron Cynic (@aaroncynic) August 24, 2019
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones: Several days later I still have “Someday I Suppose” stuck in my head. The Bosstones played Riot Fest in 2017 and were *good*, but headlining 350 Fest gave them a little more time to shine and they managed to bring so much non-stop energy there was almost no time to catch my breath.
Literally all of Sunday: Naked Raygun, The Bollweevils, 88 Fingers Louie, The Eclectics, Airstream Futures…I spent the whole damned day smiling and singing my way through every set.
May I present one of the best Chicago punk bands ever, The Bollweevils #350fest pic.twitter.com/v8t1aZ94LS
— Aaron Cynic (@aaroncynic) August 25, 2019
MOAR Raygun pic.twitter.com/cplUGabxn2
— Aaron Cynic (@aaroncynic) August 26, 2019
Howdy Neighbor Blueberry & Lemon: I’m normally not much for kolsch, but this was by far the best beer of the fest. The blueberry shines through and gives it a much sweeter and fruitier flavor than the average kolsch, and the touch of lemon gave it a nice balance.
I Hate Monday’s: This coffee-flavored porter is a 350 Brewing standard, but damn if it doesn’t still deserve a mention for going down so smooth and so quick. At nearly 9 percent ABV, it may not have been the best choice to mainline it all night on Friday, but when have festivals ever been about moderation?
Journeyman Distillery: These guys know how to make one hell of an old-fashioned. Whatever they were serving that had gin and lemonade was pretty tasty too, but that’s about the time where my notes became mostly illegible.
It’s hard to say whether or not 350 will be able to continue with the three-day format. While the evenings tended to be a good sized crowd, Saturday and Sunday afternoon felt especially empty. I’m more than happy the expansion meant many more bands, but hopefully they find a way to fill the room a little more during the day.
The Tinley Park Convention Center is *big*. A lot of areas felt somewhat underutilized—particularly the giant room where Journeyman was set up. While I loved having extra space to spread out on a break, I miss previous years when 350 featured a large selection of other craft brewers.
One of the most endearing sights of the weekend was how many bands brought along their whole family to enjoy the show. Punk’s not dead—it’s older, greyer, gained some weight—and now bringing the kids to more shows. This year my colleague photographer Dave Keeling brought along the kids Sunday to see their first punk show, and I can’t think of a better introduction or way to continue the tradition than a festival headlined by Naked Raygun.