Punk ain't dead, and neither are you. Two decades on and one horrifying global pandemic later, Wyoming punks Teenage Bottlerocket are hitting the road with their "Safety First, Party Second" tour, a celebration of survival that kicked off in Nashville on June 22.
Lucky for us, there are a clutch of Florida stops, including Tuesday at Orlando's treasured watering hole, Will's Pub. They'll be joined on the tour by Brooklyn punk up-and-comers MakeWar, and locals Debt Neglector are opening the night.
For Teenage Bottlerocket, the road is their home, and they're ready to get back to the nomadic work that is life as a touring punk rock band. Co-founder Ray Carlisle, who founded Teenage Bottlerocket with twin brother Brandon over 20 years ago, explains how it's been their destiny since they were kids: "We started jamming together, playing air guitar on tennis rackets to Billy Idol since we were 5 years old. We've always been performing and playing rock music even if we were pretending."
And as soon as vaccinations were readily available, the members of Teenage Bottlerocket knew they wanted to hit the road again.
As the tour name — "Safety First, Party Second" — implies, safety is the primary concern on this tour. The band has been working with promoters across the country to ensure their shows are as COVID-safe as possible. That includes, variously, outdoors shows, temperature checks and required masks.
Ever the agitators, Teenage Bottlerocket made national headlines and even a CNN appearance recently over the protocols of their upcoming St. Pete show. Set up by area promoter Paul Williams of Leadfoot Promotions, tickets are available for a discounted $18 price if you're vaccinated and a whopping (but fair) $1,000 if you're not. It's a brilliant and pointedly punk tactic to keep everyone safe and accountable without dictating anyone's behavior. It even taught Teenage Bottlerocket a lesson in keyboard commandos.
"We want to take responsibility for our fans. We want to make sure our fans and the bands are safe," Carlisle says. "People who got vaccinated don't have a militia they put together, but the anti-vax people definitely have a militia, and they definitely attack people."
To the anti-vax Twitter army, he has a firm message: "Don't pretend you know who Teenage Bottlerocket is!"
Twitter trolls aside, the tour is heading across the country as you read these words. So how exactly does a band write a post-apocalyptic setlist?
"Well, I haven't done it yet," answers Carlisle with a laugh. "We're so stoked to be back in Orlando and playing Will's Pub — it's my favorite place to play there. The last time we played, though, we had partied way too hard in West Palm Beach the night before and we kind of played terrible the next day. Somebody professionally recorded it ... so you can watch us playing terribly hungover, or you can come see us play at Will's Pub for real."
Carlisle also assures OW that Orlandoans can expect fan-favorite tunes alongside brand-new material. Teenage Bottlerocket is set to release a new full-length, Sick Sesh!, in August on Fat Wreck Chords and just dropped new single and video "Ghost Story" last week, so expect quite a few sneak previews.
Talking about Sick Sesh!, Carlisle mentions darker songs sitting alongside love songs, with a few numbers written by bandmate and bassist Miguel Chen, but the song, ultimately, remains the same: Loud fast rules.
"We have not strayed too far from the path of the Ramones. There's more of that coming everyone's way and we're super proud of it," promises Carlisle.
Teenage Bottlerocket's sound and style has been rooted in a deep affection for early punk rock since the band started, at a time when the scene was becoming, according to Carlisle, "overly self-indulgent." The Carlisles decided to keep their sound primal and lean and pay homage to punk's wild roots when they formed Teenage Bottlerocket.
"'Let's strip it all down, let's get back into our Chuck Taylors and blue jeans, get our leather jackets out of the closet,'" remembers Carlisle. "The punk rock we fell in love with to begin with had been washed away ... [so]let's play this type of music regardless of what anyone's response is. We play music for ourselves rather than try to prove to people that we're good, or trying to get people to like us. And then when we did that, everyone liked us."
There's no doubt Teenage Bottlerocket knows exactly who they are, and they're ready to remind you of that, too. So shut up and get rad because come June 29, it's time to "skate or die," Orlando.