It is 2019 right? For some reason this year, it seems like we are going through a bit of a “Brosurgance” of 90s skate punk. We have new albums from The Bouncing Souls, Bad Religion, Lagwagon, Strung Out, and more. And with all these new albums come tours. Welcome back to 1998! Now, if there is one thing old punks don’t like, it’s new music and new bands. Punk is dead and all that jazz. After 40 years of playing shows, Bad Religion knows their audience all too well and took only The Lawrence Arms on the road with them for their “Age of Unreason” tour.
The Lawrence Arms, in Chicago pulling double duty as local support AND direct support technically, obviously opened up the show. They played the standard Lawrence Arms set from the past few years, sprinkled with an appropriate amount of honor and excitement of being able to play with Bad Religion. They stuck mainly to fan favorite Oh! Calcutta!, which is actually surprising since Metropole came out on Bad Religion guitarist’s Brett Gurewitz’s label, a little unknown label called Epitaph Records. The Chicago crowd ate up their performance, moshing even to songs like “Beautiful Things,” but something did happen that led to Brendan Kelly telling the audience they would get a free shirt if they “punched that dude in the face.” I couldn’t see exactly what happened, but when someone screamed “I love you” to Brendan, he replied with a simple, “Well, I don’t love you.” Besides that and the couple of prerequisite “Hen-nes-sey” chants, it was an uneventful yet solid set.
Bad Religion’s between set set-up time was surprisingly short. And after lowering their massive fucking banner that featured every one of their album covers in a kind of grid, took the stage to the delight of the older yet somehow still- smelled-like-literal-shit jam packed crowd. I’m admittedly not the biggest Bad Religion fan, but watching these dudes in their in their mid-50s do their thing that they have been doing for almost 40 years is a sight to behold.
The good thing about a legacy Punk band like Bad Religion is they have songs people will riot if they don’t hear them. But they also have to fit in their new stuff because this tour is in support of that album. However, since they are a Punk band and their songs are almost never longer than three minutes, they can do it all. Bad Religion fit almost 30 songs into their hour and a half set, sneaking in at least one song in off almost every major release they have had. That mixed with the occasional dad pun between songs, made for a pretty impressive set. “Dad pun?” I can hear you ask. Yes, dad pun.
“Who would have though after almost 40 years, Bad Religion would still be playing? Sometimes the truth really is… Stranger than Fiction…”
“Chicago knows a thing or two about fires. Well, so does Southern California. It’s almost fire season there, and soon… Los Angeles will be Burning…”
“Chicago, you guys are great, but it looks like you could use a little Chaos…From Within…”
Dad Religion indeed. Besides doing what I dubbed “Graffin Hands” the entire set (like Jazz hands but more Shakespearean in nature. Think about what the person doing the “To be or not be” monologue would be doing with their hands), Greg Graffin also took the time to jump into the barrier to shake the hands of people who were “Bad Religion first timers.” He also took a jab at their superfluously giant banner, telling the crowd every Bad Religion cover was represented on there, and this next song “comes off of B-7 up there.”
Bad Religion ended the night with the one two punch of songs I was waiting for them to play, my personal favorite “Fuck Armageddon This is Hell” and their 2002 radio hit “Sorrow.” I was mostly pumped they did the weird vocal thing on Greg Graffin for the opening of the latter song. They did come back for an encore, but I was already on the Red Line home by the time they made their way back to the stage. I’m also old and tired, and fuck encores.
Good show. I spent most of the Bad Religion set sitting in the theater style seating at the very top of the venue, with all the other weird goons who fled to high ground to rest their old legs. I was joined by two extremely sweaty dudes who between dancing around were having a very passionate conversation about who the fuck knows what while the very loud band played. There was the guy filming the entire set on his phone from two miles away not only vertical, but with the flash on. And of course the horde of people standing among all the seats for reasons unknown to me. I was just happy to be able to sit and enjoy.