Monday night I saw bad religion at the nokia theater times square. Does anyone remember when music venues werenâ€™t named after big corporations?
Going to times square is always an ordeal. The tourists, the flashing lights, the traffic â€“ I have a hunch itâ€™s pretty close to hell. We step out of the subway, get our bearings and walk 2 blocks on that strange patch of triangular cement that exists between broadway and 7th. Suddenly, to our left, there was a huge screen screaming Bad Religion and prominently displaying their new cd cover. Adam says there was a music video clip but I missed it. We walked up to the entrance where security guards yelled â€œAll exits are final!â€ swept us with metal detectors before letting us in the door.
And wow. It was just so â€¦ shiny. The carpets were clean and the color was obvious. There were escalators. Multiple sized televisions dotted the walls playing a plethora of concert stills, advertisements, and the occasion video of the current show. We stopped at the merch table for a bit (disappointing) then entered the stage area. We walked down to the pit, got a choice spot at the back of the floor directly in front of the stage, and sat down â€¦ on the clean, nicely varnished hardwood floors. I noticed some security people walking around with flash lights. I assumed it was to make sure people stayed in line. It wasnâ€™t. It was to make sure the floor stayed clean, which was probably a legitimate liability for them.
The â€œAll exits are final!â€ call must have scared many people off. A half hour or so before the first band it was pretty empty. And there, in the middle of the pit, was the typical drunk frat boy douche trying to mosh with the few early-risers not pressed up against the stage barricades in anticipation and adolescent glee. This guy was wasted. It was around 7:30 and he could barely walk. So it came as no surprise towards the end of the second bandâ€™s set, he slid to the floor and started dry heaving. Some pious soul picked him up and lead him the foot or so to the back railing where he proceeded to start vomiting. By this time the band had ended and this poor douche became the audienceâ€™s spectacle of choice. The guy standing next to me, who I have decided is perhaps the nicest person in the world, went and brought the garbage can to the guy. Douche boy then fell over while vomiting into it. Once the guy was walked out by two security guards, tripping over his jacket which had fallen around his ankles, one of the female floor cleaners stood guard by the mess waiting for cleaning tools and help. At this point the crowd became very invested in protecting others from the soiled area. Yells came at anyone who dared walk in front of the girl guarding the spew. The most intense yells came when some guy walked dangerously close then kneeled to tie his shoe. Finally, cheers erupted when a guard came with disinfectant cleaner. I think, for some, this was the highlight of the evening.
But not for me. Bad religion was where it was at.
So letâ€™s start from the beginning:
First band was The Briggs. On first myspace listen they were ok. On first site, they were douches. Two singers with the same voice. Lyrics like â€œThis song is for you, this song is for us, this song is for the world.â€ Overall, been there, done that. Thereâ€™s not much to write home about.
Up next was The Gallows. A british hardcore band full of tiny, skinny boys in tight jeans. But damn, did they put on a show. Amazing split leg jumps were executed by the singer and guitarist to the envy of any kid on the track team. The singer spent 80% of the show in the pit. This was mildly problematic since he had a corded mic and here on the east coast the kids love their circle pits. (On a side note, Iâ€™ve never really gotten down with the circle pit. I mean, whatâ€™s the point? At least with slam dancing or moshing, youâ€™re, you know, dancing. But the circle pit seems like Nascar. Donâ€™t they ever just want to go right??). Towards the end of the show the singer told us that his and his brotherâ€™s (the guitarist) mom and aunt were in the audience. On the next song, the guitarist ran up to the upper seats where his mom was sitting, slung his guitar over the railing, and played. Then he kissed his mom and ran back on stage. Iâ€™m not sure if his guitar had a wireless pick up or what but it was cute either way.
And finally â€¦ drum roll please â€¦ BAD RELIGION.
Bad Religionâ€™s stage presence, while awesome, was in stark contrast to The Gallows. As Adam says, thereâ€™s no ego in Bad Religion shows. None. Itâ€™s refreshing. While there was a sense of punk rock community and values in the Gallowâ€™s singerâ€™s time in the pit, it was a community about him. The kids danced and ran around him. Bad Religion is more like, as theyâ€™ve called themselves â€œa gang of teachers.â€ They seem more interested in making each other laugh (Brian Baker â€“ of Minor Threat fame â€“ apparently does crazy stuff on the guitar just to amuse Jay Bentley. Bentley seemed utterly amused.) than in looking cool. Greg Graffin is the only singer Iâ€™ve ever seen who can pull off the â€˜acting out the words to songs with his handsâ€™ thing. Sure, itâ€™s still insanely dorky but since heâ€™s not trying to be anything else, it works. I have a special place in my heart for Greg Graffin. He is my professor father if he was an atheist and in a punk rock band â€¦ which sadly, heâ€™s not.
Where The Gallows on stage banter was rock-fucking-roll (â€œWeâ€™re leaving today to go to
About a third through the show, Graffin tells us how happy he his to be back on Broadway and goes into an impromptu musical-theatre-esque song ending with the line â€œcuz no one in this band can play guitar â€¦ except Brian.â€ This causes an offended look from Greg Hetson. Graffin then tells us that that lovely rendition was all because â€œWhere his he? Where his he? â€¦ Simon Cowell is here tonight! Looking for his newest talent!â€
Later, mid way through the show, the band takes an extra long time between sets. I couldnâ€™t quite hear but it looked like Bentley couldnâ€™t remember how to play the next song. Graffin, eventually covering for his band, tell us Trixie the bartender asked them to take a long time between songs so everyone could get drinks. He called it the â€œalcohol intermission.â€ (I called it the â€œweâ€™re oldâ€ intermission â€¦). This rant still didnâ€™t fill the time so Graffin asked to have the house lights up to see the â€œcheap seats in the back.â€ Graffin said thatâ€™s where heâ€™d be â€¦ he â€œspent his time in the pit as you all know but â€¦â€ and then he mimed a hip fracture. Bentley missed the lights up so they did it again and he commented: â€œYou know whoâ€™s back there? â€¦ Your moms and dads â€¦ itâ€™s ok cuz Iâ€™m dating your mom!â€ The audience booed … I thought, actually, you are those dads in the back. (In fact, Graffin was spotted at a Fall Out Boy show. When asked about it, he said that his kids wanted to go so he took them. Awww.)
But what about the music you may be asking?
The truth is Bad Religionâ€™s music speaks for itself. Intense, passionate, articulate, intelligent. What else can be said? I will say that, having only seen them live at Warped Tour, they are, in fact, far superior at their own shows. Perhaps because they have time to talk to and get to know the audience. This modest, self-depracting quality is what makes Bad Religion shows so special. After the band walked off the stage, pre-encore, they came rushing back. Jay Bentley ran up the mic and blurted â€œWe have 7 minutes to play 3 songs.â€ The rest of the band hurried but with less gusto. Jay taunted â€œDrunky McGooâ€ (Brian Baker) to hurry up and get his guitar on. After two songs, Graffin pointed one finger at the side of stage, mouthing â€œone more.â€ His insistent, repetition makes me think whoever was in charge was not having it. They played another song (â€œInfectedâ€ of course) anyway. The truth is, however old the members of Bad Religion get and in whatever capacity (performers, spectators, parents), they are here for the kids and for the music. Period.
Songs they played (courtesy of Adam â€“ not in order):
We’re Only Gonna Die
Fuck Armagadden…This is Hell(from How Could Hell Be Any Worse?)
I Want To Conquer The World
You (from No Control)
21st Century Digital Boy(from Against the Grain)
Atomic Garden (from Generator)
Recipe For Hate
Skyscraper (from Recipe for Hate)
Infected(from Stranger Than Fiction)
Come Join Us (from the Gray Race)
The Defense (from the Process of Belief)
Social Suicide (from the Empire Strikes First)
Heros and Martyrs
New Dark Ages
Requiem For Dissent
Dearly Beloved (from New Maps of Hell)