Punk outfit Culture Abuse opened up day three of Riot Fest last weekend on the Roots Stage. The band hails from the Bay Area, and currently live outside the city in Hunter’s Point, CA. Just last April, the group released their latest album, 'Peach'. The album mixes full-throttle guitar lines and driving drum beats with laidback, dreamy vocals, making Culture Abuse a stand out in the punk scene. This summer, the group has been touring all over the US for 'Peach' in their tour van, “Rusty Penny”. After their Denver Riot Fest set last Sunday, I made my way over to the press tent to interview the band, and had the pleasure of sitting down with guitarist John Jr. (aka June Bug), and stand-in drummer Sam Bosson.
So tell me about “Rusty Penny”.
John: She is a big, sixteen passenger Ford van. We ripped out the last two benches for gear, and we call her ‘Rusty Penny’ because she is a pretty odd shade of brown.
Does she have AC?
John: Ha! She was born in 1994. No air. In fact, in traffic we normally have to blast the heat so she doesn’t overheat. We got her from a healthy living center. Kinda ironic, considering we are far from sober living…
So your new album 'Peach' has a way brighter and dreamier sound than the normal punk rock vibe. Is your new sound still accepted within the punk world of San Fran?
John: We purposefully recorded our album on a lighter note. We wanted the album to be accepted by more than just the punk community. We recorded a strong message [on Peach], and we want it to be heard and viewed by more than just punk people. People who come to see our shows are sometimes a bit surprised; we play Peach a lot faster and heavier live [than the record].
What’s it like being at Riot Fest Denver this year?
Sam: We are more comfortable in a basement or at a house show than on a stage. Every single time.
John: Yeah- it’s hard to adjust. We are so used to little rooms and fighting for space to perform, like we’re used to saying, ‘Get out of my way!’ to each other. On stage, it’s just like, ‘What do we do with all this space? Do I jump around?’
Sam: It makes me feel like I’m king of the world. I can literally hear my drums echoing off of surrounding buildings.
John: It’s crazy just to be here. I am meeting bands I would never come across under any circumstance, and sharing the same stage as bands I looked up to growing up.
I suggested we go meet up with the rest of the band, who just so happened to be chilling in the weed bus. Yep- a bus literally built to smoke up artists throughout the festival. On our way over to the bus, we ran into Juliette Lewis from Juliette Lewis & the Licks. John fanboyed-out pretty hard, calling out her name and exchanging a wave. I couldn’t blame him. We finally settled down on the bus, and that’s where we met Culture Abuse lead singer David Kelling, and bass player Shane Plitt.
So what’s the craziest thing that has happened to you guys at Riot Fest so far?
Shane: I was going to the bathroom in a Porta Potty and this cart backed up into the door. I couldn’t get out. The people driving the cart started yelling. ‘Housekeeping! Who's in there?’ I think they were just f*cking with me. They probably had no idea I was a member of a band.
David: We know what they look like. We saw them driving around later in the day and yelled, ‘We know what you did!’ They just laughed and drove off.
Sam: I hit my head on my drums pretty hard.
Sam then proceeded to show me a bump smack dab in the middle of his forehead.
Sam: And I cut my finger and bled all over myself. My thigh literally is just covered in my own blood right now.
Clearly, CA were keepin’ it punk rock.
After a few more stories and a few alleged joints, I hopped off the bus with the boys to continue exploring Riot Fest. Shane and John checked out vendor shops with crazy homemade jean jackets, while Sam and David split off to check out their friends from Hatebreed perform. I followed Sam backstage, for what ended up being some serious family reunion vibes. Hugs were exchanged as band members, crew, and Riot Fest staff chatted as though they’d known each other for years.
In my day three recap of Riot Fest for BolderBeat, I wrote about the truly authentic vibes this festival cultivates, and it was moments like this that proved it. Beyond talented musicians ripping onstage for fans (who are an awesome community in themselves), Riot Fest is a chance for artists to reconnect with old friends, and rock out to bands they grew up with and love.
After Hatebreed’s set, I left the CA boys to explore other shows. And eventually Riot Fest came to an end. But the spirit of community around RF 2016 lives on… and that’s not just the alleged joints talking.
Keep up with Culture Abuse and their upcoming East Coast tour here.
All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.