Lookout! Records Hosts Labor Day Weekend Punk Fest

Indie label's acts, including Donnas, Mr. T Experience, play three nights of shows, party at miniature-golf course.

Lookout! Records — the Berkeley, Calif., indie label — capped a weekend-long celebration of punk with a 10-act Labor Day blowout at a suburban miniature-golf course.

The four-day Lookout! Freakout! showcased bands from the San Francisco

Bay Area and beyond (click here to go to event photo gallery), including Palo Alto punk-rock quartet the Donnas,

the ScAvengers — a reunited version of veteran '70s punkers the

Avengers — and the Mr. T Experience, whose upcoming album,

Alcatraz, was given a release party Saturday.

The festival culminated with Monday's all-ages show at the Golden Tee

miniature-golf course in Castro Valley, Calif. A small stage sat at the

edge of the course, next to the free video arcade.

"[Lookout!] throw these little events ... and all the kids who are

into the Lookout! bands come to it, and they are, like, totally happy,"

said guitarist Patrick Goodwin of Pansy Division, a gay-positive band on

Lookout!

Many of the roughly 400 fans and musicians at the golf course took to

the links, navigating the windmill and the loop-the-loop as high-octane

bands such as the Smugglers, the Mr. T Experience and the Groovie Ghoulies

hammered out a punk-pop soundtrack.

The Phantom Surfers — clad in black masks and matching red plaid

knickers and golf caps — joked onstage between acts. Their frantic

set included "Crisco Party" and an instrumental version of the Ramones'

"Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," with surf-tone guitar replacing the vocals.

Singer/guitarist Jesse Michaels, formerly of '80s ska band Operation Ivy,

fronted the event's "secret surprise" act, Common Rider. Two of the

singer's Ivy-mates went on to form Berkeley punk phenomenon Rancid.

"I'm a little nervous because I haven't been onstage in about 10 years,"

Michaels said. He rapped dub-style over his band's rock-steady ska groove

on songs such as "Heatseekers" and "Carry On."

Friday night, the festival's only all-female band, the Donnas, headlined

the swank Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco's North Beach.

In skin-tight jeans and red, spaghetti-strapped tank tops, the hard-rocking quartet

ripped through tunes from its recent, critically acclaimed Get

Skintight. The Donnas also played older material, such as "Rock and

Roll Machine," the title track of their debut disc.

The Donnas lamented the age restriction at the nightclub show. "There's

a lot of younger kids that want to come, and they can't, and that kind

of sucks," bassist Donna F. reflected Monday.

Bay Area cult favorites the Groovie Ghoulies opened Friday's show. Statues

of skulls and monsters stood atop their amps as they played the

quick-and-hard "Fun in the Dark."

The Phantom Surfers also played a short set Friday, inventing new lyrics

for Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line."

Saturday's show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco featured

Lookout! mainstays the Mr. T Experience debuting several songs, including

the satirical "I Wrote a Book About Rock and Roll" (RealAudio

excerpt), from Alcatraz.

Introducing several songs by saying, "This is a song about a girl," the

group bounced through an energetic set that included old favorites "Weather

Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful" and "I Just Wanna Do It With You"

alongside the new material.

An appreciative crowd sang along and pogoed in a friendly slam pit started

not by snarling boys but by smiling girls.

Dressed in suits and rubber rain boots, the Smugglers played a jumpy set

of joke-filled pop-punk. The Vancouver, British Columbia, band kept the

crowd moving with catchy choruses and even hosted an "ass-shaking contest"

for audience members.

The set played by openers the Mopes was only the second one they've

performed for their new Lookout! album, Accident Waiting to Happen.

Guitarist John Jughead said it most likely was "the Mopes' West Coast

debut and swan song," as the members were busy with other projects.

Sunday night at the Great American Music Hall, the ScAvengers, featuring

original Avengers vocalist Penelope Houston and guitarist Greg Ingraham,

promoted their new Lookout! album, The Avengers Died for Your Sins,

by delivering such now-classic punk anthems as "The Amerikan in Me,"

(RealAudio

excerpt) and "Corpus Christi" (RealAudio

excerpt) to an ecstatic crowd.

This was only the second regrouping of the Avengers since 1979. The

current model came together last year to re-record old Avengers songs

for Died for Your Sins, a compilation that was released in March.

At the Music Hall, the ScAvengers tore through audience favorites that

included "We Are the One," and a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It

Black."

They also dedicated "Teenage Rebel" (RealAudio

excerpt) to the youngest band on the bill, San Ramon, Calif.'s

Towards an End.

Backstage, Houston talked about the niche punk rock fills in today's

society.

"[Sometimes] it seems kind of like background music for initiation into

adulthood ... and that's important, but back then, it was more of a

breaking down of popular music — taking it back into the garage and

breaking it into its basic parts, so it could be useful again."

Cheering crowd members, young and old, shouted out requests, and they

seemed to get what they wanted.

Audience member Kevin "KO" O'Connor, 35, of San Francisco said, "I usually

don't go to reunion shows. ... I saw the Sex Pistols reunion and it was

terrible. But I saw the Avengers back in 1978, and tonight they sounded

just as good as their first record."