"Good music is good music, and that should be enough for anybody.” - Brad Nowell

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Like A Trampled Flag On A City Street..."

Many things depreciate with age, but as the world knows, there are exceptions to this rule: wine, precious metals, classic cars, and Bad Religion. Wait, what? You’re thinking I made the Bad Religion part up? Well, I did-I did right now: A nearly sold out crowd bore witness to a flawless performance given by the punk rock enigma that is Bad Religion. Bad Religion ripped it up at the Electric Factory, in Philadelphia, on October 19th, 2010. Those boys may look like they’ve been at it for 30 years, but they sure DON’T sound like it.
After a hasty pat-down at the front door, I made my way inside and up to the balcony which has an impressive selection of Philadelphia’s finest craft beer breweries.

Philadelphia, and her surrounding area, have great breweries, bars, and brew pubs. My friends and I are spoiled by such great beer as crafted by Victory Brewing Co., Yards, Philadelphia Brewing Co., Slyfox, and plenty more. So, I approached the bar, ordered Yards’ Philly Pale Ale, and went in search of Cat and Karoline. Right away, Cat found me, and we made it back to she and Karoline were hanging out at. They broke the news that I had missed Off With Their Heads, but, whatever: 95 was congested and trying to find decent, safe parking around 7th and Spring Garden is beyond tedious. You find yourself at odds between dealing with leaving your car unattended in a very poorly lit, not so great neighborhood on the other side of Spring Garden and the efforts of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Soon enough, The Bouncing Souls took the stage, and the applause of the crowd competed with the amplifier’s feed back as the band jumped in to their first song.

There’s no denying the presence of The Bouncing Souls; they’ve been a punk hallmark for more than two decades, and have released a multitude of solid albums - albeit some better than others. This night, The Bouncing Souls sounded great, but I, for the most part, was not too impressed by their set list or the stage antics of lead singer, Greg Attonito. Most specifically it was Greg’s lack of any stage presence thereof. As he sang, he stood there, he swayed there, Greg wore his button up shirt and tie while looking rather bored, or maybe drunk?

I've been told I've missed the best performances by The Bouncing Souls 10-15 years ago. Their gig wasn't all that bad, and I can’t go without saying that the rest of the band was tearing ass on their respective instruments, especially the drummer. To be honest, the Souls sounded fantastic except while playing “Lean on Sheena.” With that song, the impression given was that the studio version has too much polishing, and does not translate as well as the rest of their set had. Speaking of their set, I wasn’t able to identify more than a handful of songs. Granted I’m not the biggest fan of the Bouncing Souls, but I can surely identify their more popular songs when they’re played. I can recall the following from their set: “Manthem,” “Private Radio,” Hopeless Romantic” “East Coast! Fuck You!,” “Gasoline,” “True Believers,” and a cover of Hot Water Music’s “Wayfarer.” Undeniably, my favorite album from the Souls is Maniacal Laughter(1996), and I suppose I might’ve had my fingers crossed for a handful of tracks off of that piece of gold, which is heads above some of their other releases, specifically the "Debbie Downer" of all their records, Anchors Aweigh(2003). Though I wasn’t impressed, I was very glad to see one of the best products of the Jersey Shore - quite unrelated to that cavalcade of shit dominating trending topics and American television sets. I am positive that, had they been headlining, The Bouncing Souls would’ve been more creative with their set list. So much so, that I’m inclined to check out their Home for the Holidays stint at The Stone Pony after Xmas. Most likely, I'll go to the show hosting NYC hardcore champs, H2O, or one with The Menzingers; their newest album is great. Next up was Bad Religion.

Cat, Karoline and myself had a few drinks after Bouncing Souls and wandered down stairs to join the masses for what I was anticipating to be one hell of a show. Some bands who have been together for ages don’t quite seem to have their shit together when it comes to making songs translate live. It had been a while since I had seen Bad Religion in person, but after getting a free copy of 30 years live, earlier this year, any fear of Bad Religion not playing up to snuff has been washed away for months. 30 Years Live is worth paying for, and the $0.00 price tag is quite the surprise after the first, second and fifteenth listen. Using that album as a projection for the night’s set list made my fingers cross for some favorite songs to be played; Cat wanted to hear “Supersonic” I wanted to hear “Frogger,” “Man on a Mission,” "Kyoto Now," “Generator,” “21st Century Digital Boy,” “Pessimistic Lines,” “American Jesus,” and many, many more.
As Cat, Karoline and I made our way through the crowd, we found a decent spot between center stage, towards stage-right. Karoline preferred to be closer to the wall, and Cat and I found ourselves giddy, cheering and applauding with the rest of audience when a familiar tune, I can’t recall the score, came across the P.A. The lights dimmed, and out strolled a grinning Brooks Wackerman, Jay Bentley, Gregg Graffin and the rest of the crew as they jumped right in to the perennial favorite “Do What You Want.” The crowd’s anticipation unleashed as an eruption of joyous fury, so Cat and I were pushed about ten feet forward, and then in any direction the crowd wished to travel; we moved as a hive for the first few songs.
Bassist Jay Bentley and vocalist Greg Graffin had no problem talking to us, and some times, maybe even most times, this brings a band closer to their audience, enhancing the experience. It’s not every day Bad Religion comes to town, so the pleasantries of their one-way dialogue go a long way, for me at least.
As I had hinted at, in the beginning, Bad Religion were above worthy of applause. The three-part harmonies, famously referenced as the “oozin’ aahs,” were on spot and in tune. The bass wasn't overpowered by the drumming, and the guitars were sounding fresh. Dr. Graffin’s singing was in key, with no noticeable, if any, slip-ups; each band member looked like they were more than happy to be there, maybe, as if they belonged there.

Bad Religion’s set list was a staggering 27 songs in length, and spanned their entire catalogue. Favor was given to their albums minted this last decade, but the set list hearkened to days gone by with concert staples like “We’re Only Gonna Die For Our Own Arrogance,” “I Want To Conquer The World,” “Generator,“ "Los Angeles Is Burning," “Suffer,” and most everything you’d want to hear at a Bad Religion show. The performance was ended with “Sorrow,” and I suddenly questioned why I haven’t listened to The Process of Belief(2002) in the longest time. “Sorrow” had chills traversing my spine, and furthered my cracking, hoarse voice towards oblivion, as the crowd and I gave what our vocal chords had left to offer while singing along to this masterpiece. The complete set list, provided below, is care of Setlist.fm, and seems correct as best as my memory serves. I wish I took note of the dialogue and more specifics of the show, but I came to have fun, and not to bury my face in my phone all night. It was truly amazing how BR was able to blend their vast array of songs in to one cohesive setlist and make nothing seem out of place. The only time things were at a mild pace, besides during chatter between songs, was during the slow chugging, bass line intro to the hallmark "Fuck Armageddon... This Is Hell!" which hails from their first album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?(1982. Bad Religion absolutely killed it, and with their vigor, interaction, amazing setlist, and banter, they served as a model example of how a band, regardless of their tenure, should perform and sound live.

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