After waiting three hours in the blistering cold of New York City, I entered Nokia Theatre with my two friends, and prepared myself for what was to be a truly incredible evening.
Pennywise and Anti-Flag were two of the first punk bands I ever got into. I used to LOVE Anti-flag, but unfortunately my enthusiasm for them quickly died down after the release of Mobilize. I still pull out A New Kind of Army and Die for the Government every once in a while, however. Pennywise -- say what you will about their new albums released over the last few years, but their `90s releases were absolutely pivotal to my descent into punk rock. Whether you think they're washed up or not, it's hard to argue that Unknown Road, About Time, Full Circle, and Straight Ahead aren't all fantastic albums. I can't even count the number of times I've sped down the highway with "Fight 'Till You Die" blasting. Good times, my friends.
How many bands have stayed together for 25 years all the while consistently putting forth album after album of quality music? Bad Religion's Atlantic releases may not have been my favorites, but they were still great albums containing loads of good songs within, not to mention their fantastic two comeback albums on Epitaph. Their early work, of course, is legendary and highly regarded as some of the best punk rock ever recorded. Bad Religion's on a roll, basically, and I've been counting the days 'till I could finally see them live for the first time.
First up however, was Murphy's Law. I'm aware of this band and a few songs, but I don't own any records or know anything about them except for the fact that they've been around since the `80s, and that Jimmy Gestapo is hilarious. Needless to say, they started the night with a bang. Forgoing a sound check for a five-minute mini-jam, I was immediately impressed by their musicianship. Jimmy walked around drinking a beer while the rest of the guys just played. They played apparent concert staples "Panty Raid," "Beer," "Crucial B-B-Q," "Skinhead Girl" (ridiculously catchy!), "Ska Song," and more. They were a lot of fun, and brought forth a great atmosphere from the crowd. Jimmy jumping into the crowd and going crazy was pretty amusing as well.
Anti-Flag soon took the stage and tore into one of the only songs I knew out of their set, "Die for the Government." It certainly brought me back, and it was definitely a lot of fun to sing along with. They sure know how to put on a show, jumping about with wireless guitars and a lot of pointing/winking from Justin Sane. While their set made me hate faux-hawks even more (what the fuck is with Chris #2? Does he not realize how stupid he looks with blond hair and a black faux-hawk?), they were fun. They played "Underground Network" and a bunch of songs I don't remember, a new song that was surprisingly good, and easily the highlight of their set -- the first of two Minor Threat covers of the night, except this one was with Brian Baker playing bass! Chris #2 took the mic for an excellent rendition of "It Follows." As much as I hate the hair (and the funny matching outfits), I can't deny that they put on a great show.
After a long wait due to some problems with the drums, Pennywise finally came on. Ripping into "Fight 'Till You Die," Pennywise played a fantastic set that never let up for a second. I was very, very happy with their choices of songs -- they're obviously fully aware of the fact that their older stuff is much better than their newer songs. They didn't play my two favorites, "Perfect People" or "Come Out Fighting," but they did do two of the better songs off Land of the Free? and the one song from The Fuse that they played was pretty good. I wasn't able to grab a real set list, but I'll post what I remember (out of order, though). They didn't seem to be following it anyway, as there were a lot of requests ("Every Single Day," for one) and their Minor Threat cover was pretty fun too. Jimmy Gestapo came out, sang the first verse, jumped into the crowd, and was back on stage just in time to finish the last line.
I'm pretty sure they played a few more songs, but I don't remember exactly what they were. Their set was fucking crazy, especially for such a large venue. The best part was when they played "Bro Hymn," and the crowd went fucking nuts. Dozens of people crowd surfing at once -- so many people ended up over the barrier at the same time, security didn't know what to do. A bunch of guys got up on stage, dancing around and singing into the mics with the band. It was really incredible, especially for such an emotional song as "Bro Hymn."
After my friends and I got kicked in the head a dozen or so times, we decided to exit the pit. I've been through worse at a show, but it was probably a good decision. I was kinda sad that I wasn't against the barrier for my first Bad Religion experience, but I still enjoyed their set. Maybe it was just 'cause I loved it so much, but their set felt really short compared to many of the bootlegs I have of them. They played a decent range of material, but I was kinda disappointed. I might have just been forgetting a bunch of the songs, but I'm pretty sure they only played what I have posted below. Even with the short set, they were spot on, and Greg made his usual dumb jokes that made their set all the more enjoyable. I could talk about all the songs I wish they'd played, but I won't. They were amazing, and I can't wait to see them again. Well, I will say I was massively disappointed that they didn't play "Fuck Armageddon…This Is War," but you can't always get what you want, eh? I think the problem with Bad Religion is the sheer volume of fantastic songs they have…to cater to every fan, they'd have to play 50-song setlists. Oh well, they were still awesome.
Awesome show, see this tour if you can while it's still going. I was considering going to the two New Jersey shows too, but didn't due to that whole "money" thing. Oh well. Here's hoping for another Bad Religion tour, and soon.
What I remember of Pennywise's set list (out of order):
- Fight 'Till You Die
- Can't Believe It
- The World
- My Own Country
- Every Single Day
- My God
- Minor Threat
- Bro Hymn
What I remember of Bad Religion
's set list (again, mostly out of order):
- Sinister Rouge (opener)
- 21st Century Digital Boy
- Supersonic (I was hoping for the "Prove It"-"Can't Stop It" medley, but to no avail)
- All There Is
- Come Join Us
- God's Love
- Los Angeles Is Burning
- The Gray Race
- Man With a Mission
- Let Them Eat War
- American Jesus (closer)
- Generator (first encore)
- Infected (second encore)