The Religion That is Bad....
Last night I did something I've been meaning to do for the past 11 years or so, take in a Bad Religion concert. Generally speaking, punk rock is not my forte. However, I've been interested in the band since watching them plug 1993's Recipe For Hate on 120 Minutes, became a bonafide fan after watching them plug 1994's Stranger Than Fiction on the same show, and have my freshman year roommate to thank for turning me on to their older material. Unsurprisingly, he was the first person I bumped into last night after not having seen him for nearly 4 years.
The show was at the much maligned Webster Hall, a venue that Bad Religion claims to have played in the late 80's when it was known as The Ritz. While I generally have zero nice things to say about the place, the sound was fantastic for once, although this probably has more to do with the band (who've been doing this thing for nearly 20 years) than the venue. In contrast to other Webster Hall concerts I've been privy to, this one set the entrance at a door leading to a downstairs dance room; the effect being to corrale concertgoers into a single space with a bar, a'la Bowery Ballroom. Unfortunately, this had the detrimental effect of requiring you to climb 4 flights of stairs to get to the show.
While not quite sold out, the venue was plenty packed, with the older folks (even saw a mom or two) standing in the back, while the middle and front of the room was reserved for younger, mosh-pitting types (guess where I was). Oddly, there didn't seem to be any in between; the crowd was either beating the crap out of each other, or standing perfectly still. I usually tend to jump up and down in place whenever I get excited, and yet I appeared to be the only one doing this over the age of 18.
Setlist wise, it was structured like a Sleater-Kinney concert, which is to say: lots of new album, hits (e.g. "Generator," "21st Century Digital Boy," "American Jesus"), and a few wild cards. Fortunately, Bad Religion's recent The Empire Strikes First is a very solid album, and they had the good sense to leave its slower songs off of the setlist. I was actually surprised to see how most of the crowd knew every word to the more recent material; proof that Bad Religion is still relevant among the Warped Tour set. Frontman Greg Graffin also likes to talk to the audience. Maybe too much. Lots of election speak, lots of tales about the previous night's show, lots of tales about the last time Bad Religion played Webster Hall, and a song dedicated to "that fucking FBI Agent who's been following us around" (something actually believable in light of the fact that the Secret Service investigated Eminem not so long ago). I was also surprised that "Mr." Brett Gurewitz was nowhere to be found seeing as he rejoined the band in 2001, although I suppose someone needs to hold down the fort at Epitaph Records when BR goes on tour (and guitarist Brian Baker is a more than competent substitute). All in all, a fun time.