Wednesday, May 11, 2011
There's something about a good punk show that means summer is here. For me, it goes all the way back to seeing the Descendents at Liberty Hall shortly after graduating from high school. Something about cramming a lot of folks into a theater when it's hotter than hell and getting them all to sweat and sing along together just signifies the season. When you rock out to the PA music as well (in this case, the Rezillos, Joe Jackson, the Vibrators, X-Ray Spex, Television, and other punk classics), it's the sort of show that presages greatness yet to come.
And while Rise Against might not qualify as "great" per se, its anthemic punk rock manages to fall under the "moving" category. The group's songs evoke a strong emotional response from the audience, regardless of whether you're familiar with the depth of their catalog or not. Maybe it's the fact that if you've got Zach Blair on guitar, any fast song is going to grab your ears and make your head move up and down and back and forth.
The crowd was with Rise Against from note one, finger pointing and chanting "RISE!" in complete unity. Hands rose at every possible opportunity. It was almost as if the show were a praise-rock performance -- only not one bit mellow. "Re-Education (Through Labor)" saw the backdrop disappear, only to see the crowd bathed by the many spots hidden behind it. The band nearly disappeared within the light, with only a swirl of instrumentation and voices within to remind the audience of the band onstage. It was impressive, and a canny way to get the audience into the music and not the spectacle.
Maybe it's due to my age, but among the people I know, the majority was more excited for Bad Religion than Rise Against. I was geeking out hardcore just to shoot photos from behind the barricade with what might be the classic Bad Religion lineup: Greg Hetson and Brian Baker on guitar and Jay Bentley on bass. For an opening slot? Hell, yes!
But seriously and objectively, the band owned the stage and theater, getting as positive a response from such new tracks as "Resist Stance" and "The Day That the Earth Stalled" as the classics "American Jesus" and "Do What You Want." They sound exactly like they did on LPs when I was a hefty teen listening to "21st Century Digital Boy" in my bedroom. It's rare to find a band that betters with age, but if there was one, it would be Bad Religion.
Openers Four Year Strong had an enthusiastic crowd down front early for its poppy, hook-filled hardcore. Hell, I even saw a couple of security people nodding their heads along by set's end. The Massachusetts band isn't breaking any new ground with the fast-paced verse-chorus-verse-breakdown structure of most of its songs, but they were done well. The mix did them no favors, however, with the guitars pretty much lost in the cavernous confines of the Midland. Bass and drums pounded through with clarity, though, and that's the heart of hardcore.
Notebook dump: "Fuckin' rock boooooox! UFB style!"
Overheard in the crowd: "I'm seeing a lot of wobbly people here tonight."
Critical bias: Only Rise Against songs known by me are those from the radio and label comps.