Bad Religion is a band that means a great deal to me. There’s nothing I didn’t like about this show, so this is a spoiler, but this is going to be a glowing review. But first, a little history about the band and me. Sit tight.
I grew up as a church kid, I rarely thought about the world in a non black and white, God and the devil, duality sort of way. I liked punk rock music and by punk rock music I mean the non threatening, but still enjoyable, sounds of Tooth N Nail bands like MXPX and the most pop friendly radio ready punk rock bands like Green Day and The Offspring. Nothing against those bands, but they didn’t really challenge my worldview. Primarily, as a 13 year old, I just thought it was funny to own a record called Dookie. It’s tough to remember, but I don’t think I started to listen to Bad Religion until I started surfing, around the age of 17. I remember seeing the promotional ad for New America in Surfing magazine. The name scared me a bit because I went through several phases of shunning secular music while I was in high school and this seemed like an album I thought, for sure, I’d have to hide from my parents. I dipped my toe in first by picking up an Epitaph records compilation CD called Punk O’ Rama, but from then on I was hooked. For many years I tried to justify my listening to it with my religious beliefs, insisting that I could enjoy it even if I didn’t believe in what they were singing. Years passed and other bands, like Fugazi and Minor Threat entered my world. My ideas changed on a lot of things and I can really trace the opening of my mind to albums like The Process of Belief (Big shout out to Pedro the Lion albums as well). Not that it told me what to or not to believe, but just taught me to open my mind to other ideas.
I’ve only seen Bad Religion twice, as they didn’t really tour south Mississippi during my college days, and I never made it out to a Warped Tour, but both times they haven’t disappointed. Though, it’s a strange dynamic at a show for a band that’s been around for over 30 years. As previously stated, Bad Religion was a kind of rebellious thing for me, challenging authority and whatnot, so to see parents there with their kids is weird but, at the same time, amazing to me. It’s really hopeful to see kids being raised to listen to thought provoking punk rock, but then I wonder if their form of rebellion will be shunning it and jumping on to something like the Florida Georgia Line. The Alex P. Keaton’s of a new generation. I can only hope the punk rock will stick.
I can’t find an online set list for this show and they played, probably, close to 30 songs, so I’ll hit some of the highlights for me. The started of the show, very appropriately, with “You Are The Government.” I can’t think of a better time in America to shout, at the top of my lungs “And I make a difference too.” For one night at least, I felt like more than a cog. Maybe it was the 12 dollar Disney World gin and tonic getting me loose, but this was a common theme through the night. Songs like “Against the Grain”, “Generator”, “Change of Ideas”, and “New America” took on a deeper meanings. I threw my fist in the air and sang the words as loud as possible, in solidarity, with the venue crowd including several of my closest friends. I could be way off, it could have been a group of angst ridden 20-40 year olds, just looking for someone to slam into. That’s okay too, but I want to believe in my, more positive and cheesily inspiring, scenario. The set list was great from top to bottom, playing all the songs, that in case if you’d ever only listened to All Ages, would recognize. This included the Bad Religion song I’ve heard more than any other, in large part due to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2,”You”, a personal favorite of mine. Did I get off of political ideas to wander off in my mind and imagine doing a 50,000 point combo in Venice Beach, filled with kickflips and manuals, hitting that rooftop gap… maybe, and I’m not in the least bit ashamed. Another highlight was when Laura Jane Grace from Against Me! came and and sang the Johnette Napolitano part on “Television.” It wasn’t a big spectacle of a show, just tight, fast, poignant punk rock music,played passionately and that’s all I really need in life.
The band is, almost, an entirely different lineup, since the last time I saw them. Greg Graffin and Jay Bentley being the mainstays. New lineups are nothing new for Bad Religion, and it sounded just as good as it ever had. One of these days though, I really want to catch a show where Brett Gurewitz plays.
I loved it. I’ll always go see Bad Religion. They’ll always be a big part of my life. They always put on a great show. It also can’t go without saying that Against Me played a great opening set, and are, truly, one of the great punk bands from this era. A band that’s really pushing social change forward and expanding people’s minds on a completely different set of ideas. Transgender Dysphoria Blues was a game changer for me.