Nobunny headlined a free show at Rock 'n' Roll Hardee's in Springfield on the final day of Dumb Fest 4. Credit: Sean Neumann

Carol Neal laughs at the spectacle in the parking lot of the Hardee’s restaurant that her daughter Denice Hubbs manages in Springfield, Illinois.

The lot outside the fast-food franchise doesn’t usually hold anything except a few customers’ cars parked here and there. But today, roughly 150 punks from around town and across the country have gathered outside—some skateboarding, others perched atop vehicles to get a better view of the second-ever DIY punk show at what has already become known as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hardee’s.”

The late-afternoon show falls on the final day of the fourth annual Dumb Fest, a weekend-long punk and hardcore showcase. This particular show is headlined by California-based garage punks Nobunny, with support from local favorites Livin’ Thing and openers Bleeding Gums and the Nine Elevens. To a casual customer such as Neal, a 71-year-old Springfield native, they’re just bands she’s never heard of. In a patterned blouse and khaki pants, she’d normally blend right in at Hardee’s—but today she seems almost out of place.

“This is my first time really listening to music like this,” Neal says. “It’s interesting to see how the kids dress now, because they dress very different. I’ve never seen so many kids with so many holes in their heads.”

Denice Hubbs, manager of Rock ‘n’ Roll Hardee’s, in front of the Dumb Fest crowd and the restaurant’s outdoor stageCredit: Sean Neumann

Springfield’s DIY punk scene has championed a variety of out-of-the-box venues over the past few years. Anchored by a resurgent neighborhood called Southtown, the scene made use of every space it could—recently there have been shows in a city tunnel, in barns, and at half-pipes.

Word spread quickly about Rock ‘n’ Roll Hardee’s after its first show, an October 2015 date headlined by Indiana punks the Coneheads. Brian Galecki, who helped organize both Hardee’s concerts and also books shows at Southtown’s popular Black Sheep Cafe, says the community hopes to make live music at the restaurant at least an annual occurrence.

“It’s a special-occasion type thing,” Galecki says. “We’re always looking for more ways to mix things up and have shows in weirder places.”

Livin’ Thing onstage at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hardee’sCredit: Sean Neumann

Hubbs remembers that October show fondly. “It was chilly, but we had a good turnout,” she says. She’s spent much of Sunday outside taking pictures and handing out free shakes to the bands. “I really enjoyed it. I thought it was very nice. The clientele that came in was different age groups, and I just thought it was a wonderful show. There were no problems—nothing.”

Sunday’s show brought visitors from as far as Texas and Pennsylvania, and it seemed like every punk in central Illinois had had the date circled on their calendars for months. The crowd was tame after a long Dumb Fest weekend, but people still had enough energy to dance—casually, though, without as much aggressive moshing as the festival’s fans are used to. Most just happily looked on as Springfield’s music scene made another oddball venue its own.

“It was pretty much a freak show,” Galecki says, laughing. He remembers one group of people who watched the Coneheads in October from a couch on top of their van. “But [Hardee’s] thought it was cool.”

Hubbs laughs too, as skateboarding teenagers zoom by on their way to the stage—from here all you can hear is blaring distortion and mostly indecipherable yelling. She’s inadvertently created a punk hot spot while boosting her own business.

Springfield natives Alistair Reynolds and Drew Kodrich eat inside Rock ‘n’ Roll Hardee’s during the show.Credit: Sean Neumann

“It’s a great turnout,” she says. “We have nothing but positive feedback on it. It just keeps getting bigger, and it just keeps growing.”

And for her mother (and onlookers like her), Rock ‘n’ Roll Hardee’s offers a glimpse into a different culture.

“It’s interesting to come and see how the generation has changed from when we grew up,” said Neal, watching pierced-up punk kids walking by the window. “Our [concerts] were kind of toned down a little bit, but no different. It doesn’t bother me. They’re having a good time.”

Credit: Sean Neumann