Who: Bad Religion, Bouncing Souls, and Off With Their Heads
When: October 12, 2010
Where: Cleaveland House of Blues
Way back in June of 2010 when tickets went on sale for this show, I was immediately excited and made sure to get my tickets to make sure I would not be missing out on such an event. For starters, it’s freaking Bad Religion celebrating 30 years of punk rock! 30 years of music is a feat that the new trendy groups can only dream about. The second reason I was looking forward to the show was because a new up and coming band from Minnesota would be opening the show. Called, Off With Their Heads, they have been on various labels releasing several EPs and splits, but have released their first LP on Epitaph records this year.
For those that do not know, Bad Religion guitarist, Brett Gurewitz started the Epitaph label back in 1980 and has been the catalyst in getting bands to the next level for quite some time. Bands like Motion City Soundtrack, the Offspring, NOFX, Descendants, among many others used to be on the label. Currently, the label is home to bands like Weezer, New Found Glory, Every Time I Die, Thursday, Story of the Year, Social Distortion, Set Your Goals, Parkway Drive, Converge, Alkaline Trio, and several others. Even heavyweights Brand New had a European distribution deal with Epitaph for the highly heralded sophomore album, Deja Entendu. For the indie rock fans out there, the label Anti is a sister label to Epitaph. Quite frankly, for independent/indie labels, Epitaph is one of the biggest names out there for any scene and has a huge footprint on the music industry. If you do not know about them, learn ’em. The most important reason for me wanting to attend the show, however, is due to the Bouncing Souls. Aside from Pink Floyd, the Souls are my favorite band and have put out some of my favorite records of all time. Not to mention, they put on one of my favorite live shows and have been around since I was born in 1987.
The show started with Off With Their Heads playing a no bs set with little talking in between songs. The only time they spoke was to say thanks between some songs and to make a mention about how great the other two bands are along with how blessed they are to be on the road with them. I think due to a limited time to play and the most likely little familiarity with all of the older BR fans in attendance they deemed this to be the best course of action. I really agree with this as they played every song I wanted them to off their latest album, In Desolation. They also played a few off their previous record, From the Bottom. Songs like Trying to Breath, Their Own Medicine , Clear the Air, and ZZYZX were all played. My biggest complaint was that they did not use a tour member to play guitar so that Ryan Young could just due the vocals. I really liked the videos I have seen with that arrangement; however, they still killed it live even though only a few of us at the venue knew who they were. There was a small group that also knew them and got the crowd going by starting a pit. Despite the more mature concert goers not knowing these guys, they won the crowd over with their undeniable punk music that is easy to relate to and surprisingly catchy. They were a perfect opener and the sound tech that was working the show did an awesome job with the whole band, especially the backup vocals from the rhythm guitarist. Great start to a show!
Next up was the Bouncing Souls and like every show I have seen them play, they opened with a different song that I never saw coming. They kicked off with a new number from the most current release, Ghosts on the Boardwalk called, I Think That the World and instantly the crowd started cheering and pitting. The rest of the set included a good mix of old and new stuff. Depending on whether you consider The Good, The Bad, and The Argyle an actual album, every record was covered. Songs like Hopeless Romantic, Private Radio, ECFU, Say Anything, Kate is Great, and others were all played. Two interesting incidents occurred during their set. The first was pretty early on when they did a request for a young girl who asked for Lean on Sheena. The second was near the end of the set when they asked a guy in the crowd to sing Argyle for them. Quick story, back in the early 2000s the Souls let the same guy sing the song when they were in Cleveland . And because he did well and they maintained a relationship with him they continue to let him sing this particular song every time they come to Cleveland. The other cool thing about this is that this guest is someone who used to be involved with the local scene back when I was in high school and helping out local bands. The Bouncing Souls have always maintained a good relationship with their fans and this night was no different. For those seeing the Souls for their first time would never know from watching that they have been at it for over 20 years. Greg still jokes around like it is his first show, Bryan still jumps around like a youthful punk rocker, Pete stills hits his notes better than ever, and Mike still crushes it on the kit. Seeing them live always reminds me why I love music that is from the heart and passionately displayed in a live setting. Well done fellas!
Finally, the moment all the past and current punk rockers have been waiting for: Bad Religion to take the stage. I must preface by saying that the aforementioned, Brett Gurewitz was not playing with the band tonight, but instead doing roadie work for the band. He spent the whole set on the side singing every song. As far as their set went, it was awesome, quite frankly. They opened with my favorite song of theirs, Do What You Want. Other songs on their set were Generator, Recipe For Hate, Change of Ideas, 21st Century Digital Boy, Atomic Garden, and a ton of others. With such a huge catalog of music, they really touched all of their “eras.” Their encore included American Jesus and Sorrow. As far as songs off their new album, The Dissent of Man; they played Wrong Way Kids, The Resist Stance, Devil in Stitches, and Avalon. I would definitely say that more recent albums like The Empire Strikes First and New Maps of Hell were sacrificed for the new record. Also, they played a newer song featured on their recent live album, titled A Walk. Interesting part of the show came during the middle of the set when singer, Greg Graffin talked about their first show ever in Cleveland at Peabody’s Downunder back in the ’80s. While that does not sound like much on the surface, it is pretty cool to remember 30 years of countless shows when everything can easily be confused. The band played their set with all smiles and sounded great, but all three bands were mic’d well for that matter. Greg sounded as good this night as he did back when I saw them for the first time. One of my favorite moments of their set came during the song, Generator where guitarist, Brian Baker played an alternative bridge instead of the ska influenced riffs as it is played on the album. I actually enjoy when artists take liberties with their songs within reason to add a different element. That is part of the reason one would buy a record and pay to see a live band in my eyes. Greg also announced that there would most likely be more things ahead for the band in the near future so that is encouraging. Overall, one could not have asked for a better performance from such a seminal band that has been going for such a long period.
The concert was an overall great experience on many fronts. First and foremost, I got to see one of my favorite bands of all time in the Bouncing Souls absolutely kill it, yet again. Secondly, one the most revered bands in the punk scene celebrated over 30 years of a storied career with a great performance to boot. Finally, I got to see what the future holds for punk music in a band that has been around for a while, but still new in terms of the greater music market. After bands like Bad Religion and the Souls are gone it will be the duty of groups like Off With Their Heads, Fireworks, Title Fight, Transit, and many others to carry the torch and keep a good thing going strong. Therefore, while many trendy bands with no heart pollute the scene with their gimmicks, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. That light being that good music from new bands is still out there in abundance if you take time to look for it. At the end of the day that is what this all about: the continuance of music that actually means something and is from the heart.