By Dave Pehling

EMERYVILLE (CBS SF) — Independently operated for the past 15 years, Pirates Press has become an important resource for bands, musicians and labels across the country when it comes to manufacturing records and CDs as well as a variety of merchandise and promotional materials. Since starting the company in his bedroom in 2004, proprietor Eric “Skippy” Mueller, Pirates Press has grown to become one of the biggest record presses and merch manufacturers in the music industry. The company has also spawned its own label — Pirates Press Records — that puts out albums by new and veteran punk bands as well as reissuing classic albums.

Five years ago to mark the company’s first ten years in business, Pirates Press held its first Rock the Ship event with two days of music at Thee Parkside and the Bottom of the Hill that included an all-day street party. To celebrate a decade and a half of success, organizers have upped the ante, teaming with Parkside bookers and show promoters Dino & Luigi Presents to create a stellar line-up of punk bands playing eight separate concerts on both sides of the Bay starting Thursday night.

The festivities kick off with a launch party at the Starline Social Club in Oakland featuring a headlining performance by bassist CJ Ramone, one of the last surviving members of the pioneering New York punk band the Ramones who recently announced his pending retirement from playing live. Earlier this year, he released his fourth solo album The Holy Spell on Bay Area punk label Fat Wreck Chords. He will be joined by all-female, LA-based punk quartet Bad Cop/Bad Cop, earnest Brighton punk crew the Bar Stool Preachers and Boston acoustic act Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One, a stripped-down performer who sounds like a mix of Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer.

On Friday, the festival hosts two shows: a second night at the Starline will include headlining band The New Darkbuster (Lashley’s off again, on again full punk band with horns that released its last album on Pirates Press Records in 2015), modern East Bay Oi!/street punk band the Harrington Saints, Isle of Wight traditional punk trio Grade 2 and rising SF group the Complicators. Over in San Francisco at the Bottom of the Hill, Bad Cop/Bad Cop and the Bar Stool Preachers top a bill that also includes Me First and the Gimme Gimmes singer Spike Slawson (also a member of Swingin’ Utters and Filthy Thieving Bastards) and his de facto supergroup Re-Volts with fellow local punk heroes Jack Dalrymple (One Man Army, Dead to Me), Paul Oxborrow (Primitive Hearts, So What) and Colin Delany (Knowledge, Tony Sly) and openers the Last Gang from Los Angeles.

On Saturday, Rock the Ships hits high gear with its centerpiece concert, an all-day celebration on the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier docked in Oakland. Starting at noon, the family friendly affair will feature legendary early British punk outfit Cock Sparrer who released their first single “Runnin’ Riot” in 1978 and have somehow managed to stay together with their original line-up intact some 40 years later. Also appearing will be U.K. anarchist punks Subhumans, Boston street punk group Street Dogs, Minneapolis act Off With Their Heads, Vacaville upstars Monster Squad, pop-minded Seattle trio the Drowns and Calgary-based band Territories, that features former members of established punk vets Knucklehead.

The festival hosts three separate shows later in the evening, with the official Rock the Ship afterparty at at the Starline with NYC Oi! punk band 45 Adapters playing with the aforementioned Bar Stool Preachers and Territories. At Eli’s Mile High Club, local punk outfit Kicker (fronted by the ubiquitous scene figure Pete the Roadie), Vancouver garage rockers the Vicious Cycles and Sonoma outfit Roadside Bombs before an appearance by a secret special guest band. Meanwhile at the Elbo Room in Jack London Square, beloved locals Swingin’ Utters play with fellow Bay Area bands toyGuitar and Spike Slawson’s acoustic covers outfit Uke-Hunt.

On Sunday, Rock the Ship offers one final blowout at the Starline Social Club with an early show featuring two Rancid side projects: guitarist Lars Fredricksen’s Oi! band the Old Firm Casuals, which has put out a steady stream of singles and splits since 2011, and bassist Matt Freeman’s new power trio Charger, which takes it cues from Motörhead and early Iron Maiden. The threesome — which also features drummer Jason Willer (who also plays in Jello Biafra’s Guantanamo School of Medicine) and guitarist Andrew McGee — released a self-titled EP on Pirates Press Records that captures the locomotive power of Charger’s pulverizing live sets. For more information on the line-up, schedule and tickets, visit the Rock the Ship website. Full weekend passes provide access to all the shows in addition to a poster and a special commemorative gift.

Rock the Ship Festival
Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 17-20 $15-$200
Various venues