Bad Religion at Riot Fest
After the smoke and sweat clouds cleared from Lawrence Arms, there was a palpable charge in the air as the crowd eagerly awaiting the evening’s heavy hitters, Bad Religion to take the stage. Trying to play it cool up in the balcony, this girl found herself rushing the crowd on the main floor with everyone else at the first song. No one is above Bad Religion, it seems.
Really owning that male pattern baldness, which you gotta respect.
The floor was packed, shoulder to shoulder, all the way to the doors. Anyone wanting to brave the pit had a huge mass of bodies to push through to get there. Not that there was any need to get closer – Bad Religion’s trademark punk blasted through the crowd and the band’s stage presence was obvious even from the cheap seats in the back. Putting on as good a show as we’ve come to expect from the punk-rock mainstays, Bad Religion sated the capacity audience with a set list heavy on classics, as well as some new tunes from their latest album, The Dissent of Man.
Well known songs, like “Los Angeles is Burning” and “Sorrow,” brought out the karaoke ambitions of the crowd in the back, the older fans who would prefer to sing along rather than hit strangers. The kids up front had no such issues and happily threw themselves into the pit that didn’t slow once in their hour+ set.
When this girl finally made it up to the pit area, I was mildly disappointed to see the band up close. Bad Religion is not exactly a new group, to be sure, but I’m always surprised to see the age of the members so clearly. With the male pattern baldness of a suburban father, and the occasional gentle sway from a musical theater standard, Greg Graffin is not entirely unlike a community theater star in Guys and Dolls. This alternated with the occasional angry father at a peewee football game, coaching from the sidelines. Except he coached by signaling to the band, which they seemed to neither need nor notice.
Sometimes, I feel like Graffin’s going to give me a pop quiz at the end of the set.
Once I was safely in the back of theater, Bad Religion moved to “Atomic Garden,” whose Gorbachev reference may have flown over the heads of younger fans, born well after the Cold War meant anything other than a bullet point in history class.
All in, Bad Religion put on a great show, an energetic, crowd-pleasing set filled with a great mix of standards and new tunes. When the lights came up and roadies began packing up the stage, the crowd reluctantly turned to leave, knowing that any call for an encore was futile. But the excited chatter that filled the lobby and eventually flooded Milwaukee Avenue was evidence of an audience who got what they came for: a killer show and some punk rock camaraderie.
*By Jesy, who was inappropriately excited to not be the oldest person at the punk show.