This summer, Bad Religion, The Offspring and Pennywise are teaming up for the Summer Nationals Tour. With the closest stop being in Chula Vista on Aug. 30, Bad Religion decided to perform a show for OC fans, by playing a concert last night, at the OC Fairgrounds' Pacific Amphitheater, with LA punk veterans X opening the evening.
"This is our first show from a long tour of Europe and it's good to be able to communicate in our own language," said Bad Religion vocalist Greg Graffin to the crowd at the Pacific Amphitheater half way through the band's set, which lasted just over an hour. "It's good to be back home in California. We love it here at the OC Fair. MMM… Smell the fried Oreos and funnel cakes?!"
Bad Religion live consisted of Graffin, along with guitarists Brian Baker and Mike Dimkich, bass player Jay Bentley and drummer Brooks Wackerman. The band played a solid set, which transcended through the audience, from the younger punks in spikes and anarchy signs to the older, gray haired punks in shorts and glasses.
You could see the sweat dripping off of Wackerman, who smashed his kit through songs such as "Can't Stop It," and "Do What You Want." Fan favorites, included "You Are the Government," "Best For You," and "1,000 More Fools," from the band's seminal 1988 album Suffer. The crowd also erupted as the band played the hits like "Infected" and "21st Century Digital Boy."
Bentley's movements with the bass, along with the intense drumming, caused bursts of energy that brought out a certain conviviality on stage. This force combined with the band's optimistic set of melodic hardcore punk, and was able to harness enough energy from the crowd to start moshing, in a seats only venue.
"Put those seats back, now we're going to get in trouble," said Graffin jokingly, as guards did their best to contain the would be slam dancers, including many younger women in the make shift circle pit, started all for fun of course.
Bad Religion is, like its punk rock peers in The Offspring, capable of being simultaneously a great American 'modern rock' band and a punk band that writes catchy tunes. Greg Graffin's vocals are in many aspects spot on, and the melody, cadence and harmonies in his voice comes off awesome live, on tunes like "Sorrow," and "Los Angeles is Burning,"
"OC is burning too though my friends, I assure you," Graffin told the crowd after the song.
The band played various songs off of albums as Generator, Stranger Than Fiction, No Control, The Process of Belief Recipe for Hate and others. Playing songs off of the recent True North(2013), and even reaching into the band's super early work, towards the end of the set, by playing the song "Fuck Armagedon.This is Hell," from the band's debut album How Could Hell Be Any Worse (1982).
When legendary LA punk rock bad X took the stage just before 8 p.m., the sun was barely setting, and the venue was a little more than half full, as people hurried to their seats to get a view of the magic on stage.
But as the band played on more seats began to fill, as many younger fans up front could be seen focusing in, and rocking out to all original members, including singer(and former Heard Mentality music Columnist) Exene Cervenka, bassist John Doe, guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebreak.
The band may have formed in 1977, but the simple tunes stay the same and stand the test of time after the decades; nothing matches the chemistry the band has on stage making music. Zoom's guitar work, and Doe's bass lines shredded through great songs, like "Los Angeles," and "Nausea," "World's a Mess," "Blue Spark," and "Soul Kitchen," among others. LA area fans of X were treated to a recent stint of sold out shows at the Roxy in West Hollywood, where the band performed a different album each night, including Los Angeles, Wild Gift and Under the Big Black Sun. Luckily the sound was decent at this outdoor venue, so hats off to the sound guys. Yet, as good as the band sounded, it would probably be best to experience them in a more intimate club setting, performing longer than the 45 minutes opening the show.
The Crowd: Thousands filled the Pacific Amphitheatre, and many were with teens and younger children. Tons of Black Bad Religion shirts with the giant red cross logo were seen all around the OC Fairgrounds. The diversity was astounding, as fans of hip hop, classic rock, metal and punk came together for this concert. Bad Religion (or someone in their crew/family) even had several mothers with toddlers visibly in the back, but on stage.
Critical Bias: With all due respect to the staff and security at the Pacific Amphitheater, the seats only policy including no floor area directly below the stage at concerts with punk bands, simply doesn't work.
Overheard: Just after Bad Religion's first few songs, singer Greg Graffin introduced the band, and asking who in the audience had seen the band before. " I'm Greg, I've been here since day one."
" I'm Jay, I' missed a few shows with the band, back in the '80s, but it's because I was drinking heavily at the time, but I'm ok now and back to stay!"
Random Notebook Dump: Though you might not think of punk rock and college professors as going hand in hand, they do in fact for Bad Religion. Singer Greg Graffin earned Masters Degrees in Geology and Anthropology at UCLA and got a Ph.D. from Cornell University, and has taught lectures in Evolution there as well.