A lot of thoughts were going through my mind as I was driving through unbearable fucking desert heat to see Rancid and the Lunachicks play the Party Gardens in Phoenix, Arizona. For one, I had no idea where the goddamn venue was. Secondly, it was my first punk show at the ripe old age of 20 and I didn't quite know what to expect. I hadn't discovered punk until I was 18, so I had no idea what a live punk show was like and I questioned whether or not I'd fit in or if I'd get my ass kicked. It's funny looking back on those thoughts now, but they seemed valid at the time.
As far as Rancid was concerned, all I knew was that Let's Go and the self-titled album had created a feeling inside me towards music that I never knew existed, and the anticipation for the show had consumed me for months since I first bought the ticket.
To make an already long story short, I eventually found the venue, saw the show (without getting my ass kicked) and left that night feeling better than I had ever felt in my life. Rancid had lived up to everything I possibly could have hoped for and as a result of that show, a door to countless other bands, shows and friends was opened up.
Those same feelings of excitement and anticipation filled me each time I drove to Echo Park the past two weeks in March to see Rancid play their final two shows of a month-long stint at the Echo. Upon arriving at the Echo my first night, I was immediately taken back by just how small the venue was. Holding no more than a maximum capacity of 250 people (approximately), I couldn't help but sense that that night's show would be special, if only for the reasons that the band would be a spitting distance away and the size of the venue provided a unique intimacy (even by punk standards) to a band of their magnitude.
Drinking a beer I watched as the night's first band (of 3), Los Difuntos, took the stage and tore through an enjoyable set of emotionally charged psychobilly. My first time seeing them, I found them pretty raw, but I enjoyed their energy and look forward to seeing them play another show locally soon.
Up next, to my surprise, was Rancid. Waiting anxiously as the sound checks seemed to take an eternity, the crowd suddenly broke out into a cheer as Matt Freeman took the stage with Brett Reed and began playing the bass-line intro to "Journey to the End of the East Bay." Tim and Lars quickly followed onto the stage and the crowd broke out into a sing-along, shouting every word to the song that gives a nod to a small band known as Operation Ivy.
Ripping into song after song, Rancid proceeded to tear through their catalog, playing songs from Let's Go, Rancid (first self-titled), Rancid 2000, ...And Out Come the Wolves and Life Won't Wait. Highlights for me included hearing "Seven Years Down," "Detroit," "Maxwell Murder" (with Freeman's amazing bass solo) and "You Don't Care Nothin'."
To my amazement, the band also played two songs that I never expected to hear from them: "Sound System" and "Knowledge." As close to Operation Ivy as I will ever get, I skanked to exhaustion and watched as Tim, Lars and Matt flew around the stage similar to the kids who danced in a frenzy on the floor.
The rest of the set was as furious as it had started, with little talk from the band in between songs and chorus singing from the kids in the crowd throughout the entire show. No sooner had they taken the stage, it seemed Rancid was finished with their set.
I stayed at the Echo long enough to see several enjoyable songs from Time Again before I made my way out into the night to drive back home. That high you get from seeing a great show was burning inside me, and the anticipation of the following week's show was already beginning to build.
As I'm sure many of you do as well, I feel lucky to have discovered punk rock, albeit late, and am eternally grateful to each and every band that has ever made me feel so fucking full of life after a simple show.
As for the Rancid show I went to the following week? It was fucking great. Guess I didn't expect anything less. After all these years, the door has never closed.
See you guys at a show.