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(Punk) Mess with the Best
Dad Joke's Punk Mess is back with a two-day event spread between Sulfur Studios and The Jinx with 23 bands
Natural Causes - photo by Natural Causes

THE PHILOSOPHY of Savannah booking entity Dad Joke is simple: no contracts. No paperwork.

Just the Golden Rule treatment for bands and a hard and fast desire to create an inviting environment for touring and local talent.

Daniel Lynch (Cray Bags, Sunglow, Greta O. and the Toxic Shock) and Josh Sterno (Cray Bags, Greta O. and the Toxic Shock) founded Dad Joke to amplify punk and its plentiful variations in the Lowcountry. They were joined by Joe Kapcin shortly after, forming a trifecta of booking experience. After their first delve into festival curation, November’s Punk Mess, the boys are back with Punk Mess 2, a two-day event spread between Sulfur Studios and The Jinx with 23 total bands.

The lineup boasts the best and tightest, the slimiest and sloppiest of (mostly Southeast) punk. The Coffin Daggers, a killer instrumental surf band from New York, headline; with Victor Dominicis of Nausea and Reagan Youth on lead guitar, their show is a can’t-miss. Dad Joke has pulled in buzzed-about projects like Sick Thoughts, a furious, unabashedly weirdo one-man garage punk project that’s drawn the attention of many a tastemaker and fetched a favorable 7.7 rating from Pitchfork. Gainesville band Soda just returned from a tour with Parquet Courts; both have releases on the label Dull Tools.

If you’ve attended any number of Dad Joke shows in the last year or so, you’re sure to see some familiar names on the Mess lineup—like Orlando faves Tight Genes and JAX synth-punks The Mold—and some SAV friends, too. Ten local bands will play Punk Mess, including Lynch and Sterno’s own Greta O. and The Toxic Shock and Cray Bags, as well as Shoplifters, Keith Kozel of Superhorse and GAM’s new project. With no recordings to be heard, Shoplifters promises elusive excitement.

On the whole, the fest is a fuzz-punk, garage, and noise-punk affair, but there’s some surf, power-pop, and heavy stuff in there, too.

“There’s a little something for everyone who likes alternative, punk, whatever you want to call it,” Sterno says.

The Dad Joke trio don’t have hard “roles” within their organization, preferring to keep it casual but efficient with all hands on deck.

“We’re all in contact with different people in all these bands,” Lynch explains. “We’ll take care of you. We’ll curate a show, create a great time for you, and keep your tour smooth.”

Bands get full festival passes for the weekend—which is pretty awesome, considering most Mess performers have shared the stage with one another at some point in time.

“A lot are staying over into the next day to see each other play,” says Lynch. “Most of the bands are in a certain counterculture, regardless of genre. Even though there’s a big span, everybody’s into everybody else’s stuff.”

That community has found a home in Savannah thanks to Dad Joke’s influence on the scene. Many Punk Mess bands have already performed here, and those that haven’t are raring to play the festival. Even with Dad Joke having existed for all of a year and a half, it just took Sterno creating a Facebook event months in advance for bands to reach out and ask for a chance to play.

With their devotion to booking year-round—reaching out to bands they enjoy, asking them to come play Savannah, those bands having a good time and spreading the word in their own scenes—Savannah’s become a staple stop for scuzzy DIY bands touring in the Southeast. In years past, tours may have hit Atlanta and skipped on over to Jacksonville; now, Savannah is the go-to in-between date.

“A lot of people do that run, and they play shows with our friends in Jacksonville and Atlanta, or people that we’re acquainted with,” Lynch says.

Punk Mess fits nicely in the culture of Southern punk mini-festivals like Atlanta Mess-Around, specializing in sloppy, beer-soaked regional punk with some heavy-hitter national acts (Pissed Jeans headlined 2015, with The Real Kids and The Gizmos taking the lead this year), and Total Punk’s Total Fuck Off, which showcases the Florida label’s finest. With those weekend’s emphases on a grimy, debaucherous, sweat-stained, bruisin’ time, Punk Mess is a natural addition to the Southeast scene.

Sterno attended this year’s Atlanta Mess-Around, and, in addition to having a hell of a good time, used the trip as a learning experience.

“A lot of what I was seeing in how they ran it was basic protocol,” he shares. “Having a banner onstage, having different wristbands for each night. It’s the little things I took notice of, and I met a lot of people there, too. I gained knowledge in how to do it, even though I didn’t even really talk to anyone who ran it.”

While starting a festival sounds like a horribly daunting task for someone who’s never attempted such a thing, Dad Joke approaches the endeavor like one big, stacked club bill because, at its core, Punk Mess is all about good shows: no frills, none of the experiential frivolities that have grown to plague music festival culture. Just the wild notion that all you need for a memorable weekend is a lineup of great bands and a floor for them to play on.

With Sulfur Studios and The Jinx as venues, folks of all ages can enjoy the breadth of the fest.

“You can go to Sulfur and watch music all day long and then head down to The Jinx,” says Lynch. “It’s a two-day event.”

“It seems more like a festival this year than it did last year,” Sterno adds.

Is this the second of many Messes to come? Dad Joke hopes so.

“Longevity is definitely desirable,” Lynch says. “As there was a circuit in the ‘70s and ‘80s for punk rock music, it’s happening now. We’re alive, and we want to do that here. Nobody else is doing it.”