Tattoos and heavy black eyeliner may show up with more regularity at a punk show than a bowling alley, but fear not-they all mix quite well at Las Vegas’s annual Punk Rock Bowling (PRB) extravaganza.
Originally started in 1998 by BYO Records’ Sean Stern and his brothers, who wanted an excuse to throw a giant party for their closest friends and figured bowling was as good of an excuse as any, PRB has increasingly become the place for the punk community to get together, trade stories, and check out shows. This year, Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall is where the action goes down from January 15-18; Pennywise and Circle Jerks (among many others) will be performing, and more than 200 teams are signed up to participate.
The 805’s very own Tim Bramlette-Trader Joe’s employee by day, punk rock photographer (and Majestic Ventura Theater camera wielder) by night-actually has two teams in this year’s PRB tournament. And, after last year’s triumph over a squad from Oxnard (made up of members of Ill Repute, G.G. Elvis and the TCP Band, and NOFX), the reigning champion is more than ready to knock down some pins in Vegas.
Bramlette first heard about PRB from a friend who was in the band The Missing 23rd. “I was jealous that he got to bowl and party with Alkaline Trio, so I said I was going the next year for sure,” Bramlette recalled. “I went to the tournament for a few years just to photograph bands and hang out with friends, and in the back of my mind I was hoping to one day get on a team.” He got his wish when he became a substitute bowler, then permanent member, on the team for the band Jackass. When the band broke up, Bramlette inherited the team-now composed of fellow substitute Danny Mourmouris, Jackass bassist Ben Aranita, and mutual friend and photographer Albert Munoz-and renamed it Bramlette Rock Photography.
“Each year, Punk Rock Bowling gets bigger and better. And each year we as a team get a little better and a little bit closer to the finals,” Bramlette said of the crew he’s helmed for the past four years. “Winning last year was just nuts,” he continued. “In front of this insane sea of drunk punk rockers, we and the Oxnard guys were the only two teams allowed to bowl in the alley. It was totally trippy having only two lanes open and more than 1,000 people watching us.”
In May of last year, Bramlette moved to Long Beach and started a second team, which he dubbed the B Team of Bramlette Rock Photography (he’ll continue to bowl with the original squad). “We just bowl the best we can and try new tricks on getting harder pins,” Bramlette said of his quasi-training method. “Sometimes I’ll only bowl a second ball-after someone breaks-so that I can practice picking up spares.”
There’s no doubt that Bramlette hopes one of his teams wins bragging rights at this year’s PRB tournament. But whether or not he gets to hold up the championship trophy, it’s clear the main reason Bramlette enjoys this Vegas weekend is the relationships he’s able to cultivate there. “Basically anyone who has anything to do with a concert in any way-band members, poster artists, merch people, record labels, photographers, promoters-is in Vegas that weekend,” Bramlette said. “People are there because they love music, concerts, and bowling; they all want to help you out with getting jobs and networking and promoting your art or band. It’s great; I come home with a stack of business cards and start following up and get some photo shoots lined up right away.”