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Viva Punk Vegas: Q&A’s with The Punk Rock Museum’s Collective

The Punk Rock Museum is opening its doors in March this year in Las Vegas, Nevada. We got in touch with some of the founding members and curators of the museum, collectively known as, well, the ‘Collective’.



The Punk Rock Museum

Usually, when something big comes to Las Vegas, it’s another hotel-casino, something Sam “Ace” Rothstein would bemoan at the end of a 3-hour Martin Scorsese film. But the next big thing coming to Vegas, something that has been turning heads in the music, culture, and history worlds couldn’t be further from a gaming house.

It’s a museum. But not just any museum: it’s The Punk Rock Museum. That’s right: The Punk Rock Museum is opening its doors in March this year in Las Vegas, Nevada.

And it’s not exactly a ‘mom-and-pop’ operation. Encompassing 12,000 square feet at 1422 Western Ave., between the Las Vegas Strip and Downtown, the massive new museum will celebrate the genre’s substantial cultural impact over the last half-century.

In terms of how much ‘stuff’ you should expect, the answer is…well, a lot. A hell of a lot. By the time its doors open, The Punk Rock Museum will, according to the institution, house “the world’s most expansive, inclusive, and intimate display of artifacts, fliers, photos, clothing, instruments, handwritten lyrics, artwork, and just about everything else donated by the people and bands who were there.”

So if you’ve ever wanted to see the actual moulds for DEVO’s dome hats or the saxophone from FEAR in real life, it’s time to book your presale tickets.

It won’t just be showing exhibits either: it’s going to be a fully immersive space. According to the museum themselves, the location will house:

“A guitar room where you can play the actual guitars and basses played through the amps the artists played them through. We have guitars and amps from Rise Against, NOFX, Pennywise, Sick of it All, Strung Out, and many more. Yes… you can actually PLAY THEM. A lot of people ask, ‘what happens if something gets broken?’ The simple answer: we fix it – just like we did on tour.”

The museum has seven types of package passes currently available, starting from “The Crustie” (lol) for a very affordable $100 which gets you 2 tickets, 2 VIP laminates, a commemorative T-shirt, and “2 warm beers at the bar.” If you never did end up getting a hospital wing named after you and are in the market for sponsoring this cultural and historical institution, however, you could opt for the “In The Shitter” package. Along with 2 Lifetime passes and invitations to every social event and a Staff jacket to boot, it also gets you a plaque with your name on it in the bathroom, your own drink named after you, and a Punk Rock Museum tattoo by Fletcher from Pennywise or Mike from TSOL. For this endless supply of punk credit though, you’ve got to fork over $25,000.

Naturally, we were curious about this unique blend of veneration and irreverence, so we got in touch with some of the founding members and curators of the museum, collectively known as, well, the ‘Collective.’ We got to speak with four of them, each boasting ‘punk resumes’ as varied as they are impressive.

Lisa Brownlee is one of the founding Collective members. Her role is coordinator and narrator, with a focus on research and development. She has over 30 years of experience in the live music business, most well known for her extensive time as tour manager for Warped Tour. Also, a well-regarded visual artist, her passion to see an idea grow from a seed to a phenomenon has taken her from her early roots volunteering at local venues, touring in vans, and selling merchandise, to being one of the most respected professionals at the top of her industry.

How did The Punk Rock Museum start? Who had the vision for opening up this kind of museum?

Lisa Brownlee (LB):Mike was hanging with Max from Swingin’ Utters in CA after rehab and he had the idea to open up a punk record store & shop in Vegas and call it Max & Lisa’s. They called me right away in NYC to pitch the idea. I threw in the suggestion of getting some historic artifacts to put on the walls and make it more like a punk museum. Since touring was on pause due to Covid, we were able to contact a lot of our band friends directly to start digging through their personal archives. Their support to get the project going was huge, so we moved forward quickly and got a core team of good friends together overnight and here we are.

Out of all the possible places in the world for this kind of museum, why Las Vegas?

LB: “Las Vegas has always been a Mecca for all kinds of entertainment, and we consider ourselves a destination spot with lots to offer. If we build it they will come, right? No matter what the zip code is. Punk Rock Bowling has had a solid global turnout for the last 23 years in Vegas. Punks DO go to Vegas and so do tourists who will be looking for the next thrill when the gambling money runs out. I think no matter where we landed, what we have to offer will be worth the trip. Besides, we have a wedding chapel and who doesn’t want to get married in Vegas?

The Punk Rock Museum: Bryan Ray Turcotte.

Bryan Ray Turcotte is a Collective member and curator for the museum. Originally from San Jose, California, Bryan moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and has lived there ever since. He worked for infamous LA label Slash Records and played bass in the band Black Market Flowers. He founded the Kill Your Idols publishing company in 1999 with the release of Fucked Up + Photocopied to critical acclaim.

Where does The Punk Rock Museum start its timeline or coverage of the topic?

Bryan Ray Turcotte (BRT):

1969 – The Stooges release their self-titled debut LP

1970 – Lester Bangs reviews the Stooges 2nd LP ‘Funhouse’ in CREEM Magazine and uses the term Punk:

‘Like most authentic originals, The Stooges have endured more than their share of abuse, derision, critical condescension and even outright hostility. Their stage act is good copy but easy grist for instant wag putdowns. At first glance their music appears to be so simple that it seems like anyone with rudimentary training should be able to play it (that so few can produce any reasonable facsimile, whatever their abilities, is overlooked). While critics have a ball crediting John Cale with the success of their first album (as I did) and relegating them to the status of a more than slightly humorous teenage phenomenon, theme music for suburban high school kids freaked out on reds and puberty and the fantasies of nihilistic apocalypses, the majority of the listening public seems to view them with almost equal scorn as just one more blaring group whose gimmick (Iggy) still leaves them leagues behind such get-it-on frontrunners in the Heavy sets as Grand Funk, whose songs at least make sense, whose act shows real showmanship (i.e., inducing cast hordes of ecstatically wasted freaks to charge the stage waving those thousands of hands in the air in a display of marginally political unity ‘nuff to warm the heart of any Movement stumper), and who never make fools of themselves the way that Stooge PUNK does, what with his clawing at himself, smashing the mike in this chops, jumping into the crowd and wallow around a forest of legs and ankles and god knows what else while screaming those sickening songs about TV eyes and feeling dirt and not having fun ‘cause you’re a fucked up adolescent, horny but neurotic, sitting around bored and lonesome and unable to communicate with yourself or anybody else. Shit, who needs songs like that, that give you such bad vibes?”

– Lester Bangs

1971 – The Band SUICIDE start using the term PUNK MUSIC by SUICIDE on FLYERS

1971 – New York Dolls form

JFA playing live, date unknown. Photo Credit: Alan Snodgrass

What key insights does The Punk Rock Museum provide into the history of music that aren’t generally covered anywhere else?

BRT: “A perfect wave of MUSIC CULTURE, YOUTH CULTURE, FASHION CULTURE, POLITICS and ART all coming together to SMASH The NORM”

Who are the key curators who are responsible for the content exhibited at the museum?

BRT: “What Fat Mike describes as The Collective”

Are there any artists you’re looking to collaborate with going forward?

BRT: “Soooooooooo many! Too Many!”

Photo Credit: Katie Hovland

Vinnie Fiorello is the museum’s Chief Marketing Officer. Born Vincent “Vinnie” Fiorello on June 24, 1974, he is an American punk rock musician and businessman. He co-founded the ska-punk band Less Than Jake in 1992, and was the band’s drummer and lyricist until 2018. He also founded the record labels Fueled by Ramen, Sleep It Off Records, and Paper + Plastick, in addition to several local businesses in Gainesville, Florida.

If you had to choose a key theme the museum has for visitors, what would you say that is?

Vinnie Fiorello (VF): “The common thread is that Punk Rock music has incredibly deep roots with popular culture, from influencing other music to art and fashion. It’s important to see the five decades of punk side by side to see the massive impact.”

What are you responsible for at The Punk Rock Museum?

VF: “As one of the early Collective members I’ve done a lot of foundational work on building social media and I’m very proud that I designed the logo. Currently, I’m working on building a curated retail space at the museum as well as the marketing for the opening and beyond.”

Considering the kinds of crowds that generally visit Las Vegas, who’s your key demographic here?

VF: “It’s every demographic. It’s the diehards and the tourists looking for an afternoon inside. I mentioned in a previous answer the massive impact on popular culture for 50 years so from teens to visitors in their 60s, the museum has something for everyone.”

Photo Credit: Ian Pettigrew

Talli Osborne is an ambassador and coordinator for the Tour Guides. Talli is known for her work in inspirational speaking and in helping others by inspiring change within themselves, having given TED Talks and cited by Richard Branson (yes, that one) as one of the “people I find most inspirational in the world.” Osborne is famous in the punk rock community for a song written about her by the Los Angeles band NOFX called “She’s Nubs.” She’s been a vocalist herself, performing with her band Nubs and her Studs.

Will the tour guides be available throughout the month of April, or throughout the rest of the year?

Talli Osborne (TO): “The guided tours will start on April 1st and be offered through the rest of the year! At least two guides a day, every day – and multiple time slots!”

How has the experience been, getting the tour guides to agree to show visitors around the Museum?

TO: “It’s been pretty great! Everyone has been pretty excited about the opportunity to tell stories of their punk rock adventures while making some good money. It’s a really fun gig, so talking to punk rock legends about it has been really fun!”

Presale tickets and packages are available here.

Director of Communications @ V13. Lance Marwood is a music and entertainment writer who has been featured in both digital and print publications, including a foreword for the book "Toronto DIY: (2008-2013)" and The Continuist. He has been creating and coordinating content for V13 since 2015 (back when it was PureGrainAudio); before that he wrote and hosted a radio and online series called The Hard Stuff , featuring interviews with bands and insight into the Toronto DIY and wider hardcore punk scene. He has performed in bands and played shows alongside acts such as Expectorated Sequence, S.H.I.T., and Full of Hell.