When I first heard about the Punk Rock Museum, a few months before its recent April Fool’s Day opening, I was intrigued; not so much with the why, as with the how.  When I think of punk, I think of the DIY aesthetic, an anti-establishment attitude, and chaos.  None of these, to my mind, reconciled with the organization that goes into curating a museum-worthy collection, nor with the diligence required to open, promote, and maintain such a venue.  And this is before such things as establishing its 501(c)3 determination and all sorts of other seemingly banal things that go into such an enterprise.  So, I was pretty damn delighted when I visited and found that the Punk Rock Museum, while absolutely and utterly punk, was being operated by pros.

Here's the skinny.  Not too long ago, Mike Burkett—better known as “Fat Mike,” the vocalist, bassist, and songwriter for the LA-based American punk band, NOFX, as well as the tongue-in-cheek punk rock supergroup-cum-cover band, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes—had been thinking about opening a shop in Las Vegas that would specialize in punk rock memorabilia.  He then approached Lisa Brownlee (the longtime tour manager for the Warped Tour, who went on to work tour security for such notables as Willie Nelson and Justin Bieber) about teaming up with him; but Brownlee declined, as retail held no interest for her.

Then COVID came, and word got back to both Burkett and Brownlee that many of their friends in the punk world were cleaning out their storage units, their homes, and (in more than a few cases, their parents’ basements), and in the process had unearthed some great memorabilia.  As word got out (as it invariably does in any close-knit community), the idea, as well as the collections being amassed, and the interest from their fellow punk rockers, grew.  Soon, Brownlee and Burkett had assembled a group that they began referring to as the Punk Collective; and, with their encouragement and assistance, Burkett’s original concept for a 1,200-sqft shop morphed into the 12,000-sqft museum that stands, today, at 1422 Western Ave, between the Arts District and 1-15.

As for the Punk Collective, its dozens of members include the likes of  Fletcher Dragge (guitarist for the prolific punk band, Pennywise), Vinnie Fiorello (co-founder, drummer, and lyricist for the ska/punk band, Less Than Jake; co-founder of the record label, Fueled by Ramen), Pat Smear (co-founder and lead guitarist, the Germs; rhythm guitarist, Nirvana; guitarist, Foo Fighters);  Bryan Ray Turcotte (founder of the indie publisher, Kill Your Idols; co-founder of Laurel Canyon Spirits), the museum’s official spokesperson and customer service director, Talli Osborne (founder of the punk band, Nubs and Her Studs; subject of the song, “She’s Nubs” by NOFX; TedTalk-er), Kevin Lyman (founder, Warped Tour; Associate Professor, USC Thornton School of Music), and brothers Shawn and Mark Stern (co-founders of the punk band, Youth Brigade; co-founders of the record label, BYO Records; co-founders of Punk Rock Bowling); with the Collective’s collective input, ideas, and irritants being wrangled by the preternaturally easygoing Brownlee. *

So, what are you gonna see at the Punk Rock Museum?  Well, the collection is pretty vast and has been curated and arranged in such a way that it tells the story of punk rock’s substantial cultural impact, over the past half-century, chronologically by era; with well-used and abused artifacts and memorabilia dedicated to the history, culture, and absurdity of what Burkett regards as the “bastard stepchild” of rock n’ roll.  What’s more, the museum is not only celebrating punk’s most famous bands and personalities; but also, items of interest from any punk band that’s ever “been on a flyer, played in a basement, or recorded a demo tape.”

One of the things that most impressed me about the museum’s exhibits is how they—like the genre, itself—espouse inclusivity, regardless of race, nationality, gender, or sexuality.  Thus, the likes of such proto-punk, punk, and post-punk rockers as Blondie, Nina Hagen, L7, The Go-Go’s, Cherry Vanilla, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Gun Club, Pure Hell, The B-52s, X, The Cramps, Shonen Knife, The Slits, The Cliks, Pretenders, Bad Brains, Jayne County, Miss Guy and the Toilet Boys, X-Ray Spex, The Runaways, Bush Tetras, The Interrupters, Kid Congo Powers, the Mumps, Death, Suzi Quatro, Against Me!, and Hole, are afforded their right and proper places alongside the likes of The Clash, the Ramones, New York Dolls, the Germs, D Generation, Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys, Buzzcocks, the Sex Pistols, Iggy and the Stooges, Television, MC5, Green Day, Rancid, Dinosaur Jr., Tuff Darts, blink-182, Social Distortion, NOFX, Circle Jerks, Redd Cross, Black Flag, Bad Religion, Nirvana, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Beastie Boys, and The Heartbreakers.

Some of the things you might enjoy glimpsing in the collection include Debbie Harry’s iconic Vultures t-shirt (recreated by designer Scooter LaForge); Johnny Thunders’ 1959 guitar and red leather jacket; the molds for Devo’s ‘Energy Dome’ helmets; the chainsaw used by Sum 41 to kick-off concerts during their Does This Look Infected tour; FEAR’s saxophone; an outfit worn by Aimee Allen of The Interrupters; a leather jacket worn by Sab Grey of Iron Cross; and a number of artifacts from Joe Strummer, including the hand-painted Brigade Rosse/RAF shirt he wore while performing with The Clash, in Jack Hazen and David Mingay’s 1980 film, Rude Boy; a shirt he wore while on tour with The Mescaleros; and his last bag of marijuana—acquired for him by Kid Congo Powers—in a box that says ‘Joe Strummer’s Last Bag of Weed’ (one of my favorite artifacts in the collection).  There’s even the black couch on which Kurt Cobain crashed while the Melvins recorded their Houdini album (1992-1993), on which Cobain is credited as a co-producer! **

Other attractions at the Punk Rock Museum include the Triple Down Bar, co-managed by Las Vegas bar legend, P Moss (proprietor of Las Vegas late-night mainstays, Double Down Saloon and Frankie’s Tiki Lounge), that was inspired both by Moss’s Double Down Saloon, as well as Minneapolis’s legendary former Triple Rock Social Club that had been co-owned by Erik Funk of Dillinger Four, the sign for which now graces the Triple Down Bar.  There’s the Wedding-and-Wake Chapel (opening on Saturday, April 15), an ideal location for the ultimate punk rock nuptials or final send-off; as well as an authentic tattoo parlor with professional artists, which is opening soon.

And, because punk has always been extremely visceral, there’s the Jam Room, the museum’s interactive attraction, where visitors can rock out with some of the actual guitars and basses (played through the same amps!) used by their favorite punk rockers.  The Jam Room contains instruments and amps from such bands as Rancid, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Rise Against, NOFX, Pennywise, Sick of it All, TSOL, The Story So Far, Strung Out, MXPX, Wasted Youth, and many more.  Myself, I opted to noodle on Joan Jett’s white Gibson Melody Maker (see the photo, taken by Burkett, in the slideshow, above).  And what happens if something breaks mid-jam?  According to the museum’s co-founders, they’ll simply fix it, just like they would (and did) while touring.

What’s more, there’s also a fantastic option to take a guided tour from an honest-to-God punk rocker, with options including Don Bolles (drummer for the Germs), recalling the first Germs shows; Roger Miret (vocalist for Agnostic Front) describing how, in the early ‘80s, he lived in a van on Manhattan’s Lower East Side; and Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman (lead guitarist of The Offspring) talking about his band’s meteoric rise to fame.  As for me, I was lucky to receive my tour from Burkett, himself, who showed me a very humorous side to the genre, with a lot of heart.

There’s a lot to do, and so much to see (and learn!) at the Punk Rock Museum, so I encourage y’all to get your collective asses down there, and do, see (and learn!) it, for yourselves!

The Punk Rock Museum
1422 Western Ave | between the Strip and DTLV
Click HERE for info 

Get into it!

[Editor’s Note: * Kevin Lyman and Pat Smear, along with skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, would also become investors in the Punk Rock Museum // ** In true DIY punk fashion, the designer who hand-painted Strummer’s custom “Brigade Rosse/RAF” shirt—which combines the logos of Italy’s Brigate Rosse (aka the Red Brigades) and Germany’s Rote Armee Fraktio or RAF (better known on these shores as the Baader-Meinhof Gang)—made an error, as one would refer to the guerilla-terrorist group in either Italian or in English, but not in both languages at once.]

A decade later, this article's message rings truer than ever before... Yes, I’m a man. Yes, I wear a lot of jewelry. No, I do not want your oily mitts all over it!