The Turkey/Toilet Bowl Championship reunites Nardcore originals
By Chris ONeal 11/17/2011
On a Sunday morning in Oxnard, half of the lanes at the historic Wagon Wheel Bowl are occupied. Decked out in pink, the Tri-County women bowlers are engaged in a strictly monitored tournament. Standing in stark contrast are the tatted and pierced bowlers on the opposite end of the room, a mix of young and old punks from the ’Nard and everywhere in between. Every Sunday, the founders of Nardcore — Oxnard’s own amalgamation of hardcore and punk — gather to bowl, and this weekend will mark their second annual Turkey/Toilet Bowl Championship.
When Tony Cortez isn’t defining the genre, playing guitar in his Nardcore band Ill Repute, he acts as the unelected host for the diverse crowd of bowlers, gathering the $3 entrance fee and sorting players into random groups of four. After attending BYO’s Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas for several years, an event that brings together punk acts from across the nation, Cortez and friends Fred Dixon and Josh “Souther” Stamps decided to bring the idea home.
“This is more of a DIY home-town kind of thing,” said Cortez. “It’s more a reason to hang out than the competition. Punk rockers drinking and bowling and blasting the music because it’s just us. It really all just fell into place, and it doesn’t feel like much effort at all.”
The first Turkey/Toilet Bowl Championship took place on one day and hosted 30 odd teams, but this year’s two-day event will host 51 teams and begin with a show at Billy O’s on Friday night featuring the Nardcore Allstars, followed by a massive reuniting of Nardcore originals on Saturday night at the Ventura Theater, including The Missing 23rd’s “final” performance and The Return of Dr. Know, featuring legendary frontman Kyle Toucher.
“Kyle’s been kicking around the idea of playing again for a while, so we asked him, ‘Why don’t you debut at this thing?’ It’s in our home town, at our theater where they can do it big,” said Cortez.
Jim Callahan, Ill Repute’s bassist, surveys the crowd of 30 or so as he waits his turn up to the line. He’ll be bowling for Team ILL REPUTE at the championship, but the possibility of winning isn’t what captures his awe.
“I never would have thought, 30 years ago, that bowling would reunite punk rock,” said Callahan. “It’s really a natural fit.”
Joe Rivas and Jeremy Nardcore, as he is known, talk about the upcoming tournament and recall the early days of Oxnard’s thriving punk culture, sitting away from the bowling alley near the Wheel’s arcade. Rivas, who can date his first Nardcore show back to the late ’80s, still has the same enthusiasm for the scene as he did two decades prior.
“No one here really cares that much about winning because we’re all here to have fun,” said Rivas. “We all love this music and we look after each other. But we also keep each other in check. There are a few people who take it seriously, though.”
Rivas and Nardcore both mention Missy Gibbs, whose team at last year’s tournament placed third. This year, with her team Smile Now, Cry Later, she hopes to take first.
“I’m a perfectionist,” said Gibbs, making light of her seriousness while reaffirming it. “We’re all family, very much, but I’m here for vengeance.”
After the tournament ends on Sunday, Jeff Hershey and the Heartbeats will wrap up the weekend with their punk-inspired soul revival.
“We’re going to have the entire alley to ourselves, with punk rock music playing over the loud speakers. The shows on Friday and Saturday are going to be epic. We’re taking over Wagon Wheel, straight up,” said Hershey.
Standing near the booth overlooking the entirety of the floor, Ryan Saito is the mastermind who will be keeping the scores in order. If the enormity of the tournament worries him, it doesn’t show. Rather, Saito gives the championship a single nod in contemplation.
“It’s punk rock. What could possibly go wrong?”
For more information on the Turkey/Toilet Bowl Championship and how to get tickets to the various shows around town, visit Nardcore805.com.