Bad Religion has been one of my favorite bands since I first heard All Ages early in college and basically kept it on repeat for the next several years. Oddly, I've only seen them live four (I think) times, which seems like way too low of a number until one remembers that if you wanted to catch them live most summers you'd have to hit up the Warped Tour and sit through a bunch of Dashboard Confessional clones, all for a 45 minute (tops) set of Bad Religion, or maybe if you're lucky NOFX is playing too or some such bullshit.
I like Bad Religion's new record New Maps of Hell okay, but it's nowhere near as good as The Empire Strikes First, which was a very, very good record. Most people seem to be of the school of thought that "oh, wow, Bad Religion's shat out another one *yawn*" but f that noise - since founding member (and Epitaph label head) Mr. Brett returned to the band in '01 (in a songwriting capacity), Bad Religion has enjoyed somewhat of a late career renaissance with The Process of Belief, ...Empire... and New Maps... all being solid albums in their own right.
Got on the LIRR at 7:10, drank a six-pack on the way in, and plowed through a pair of hot dogs pretty much as soon as I got to Penn Station. Nokia Theatre is less than 15 blocks away from Penn, so a brisk walk over to the venue got the old blood a-flowing. Missed the first band entirely, but I'd heard good things about the second band, Gallows. I usually have a tough time telling whether or not similar bands are any good live because the sound is usually pretty muddy at hardcore shows - this one was (unfortunately) par for the course in that respect. I admired the vocalist's sense of humor and showmanship; he spent the majority of his set singing from the 'pit and cracking self-deprecating jokes about his diminutive stature ("hey, I appreciate that you've got a lot of energy, but I'm about five foot fookin' seven and these guns [points at puny biceps] aren't hurtin' no one.") When he made it back onstage for the second half of the set, his stage antics consisted of repeatedly tackling one of the guitarists and generally acting like a drunken 'ooligan on the warpath. Pretty amusing.
At the end of the set, the band threw picks and drumsticks into the crowd, and I grabbed one of the latter out of the air at the same time as some teenager; I yanked it in my direction and the kid sadly crumpled to the ground, which was somewhat embarrassing for both of us. This made me feel like a schmuck since I had no intention of actually keeping the stick, knowing full well that I would probably wind up impaled by it if I took it into the pit during Bad Religion's set.
Between sets I met up with a couple of friends-of-a-friend who I partied with before / during /after the semi-tragic yet awesome Bouncing Souls show I saw last December at Webster Hall. (I say semi-tragic because a friend of mine almost got divorced after not getting home until 7 AM -- on a work night no less -- after this show.) We went outside to get some foul air and after asking 20 plus people if they wanted to take the drumstick off my hands, some guy finally took it. He announced himself as [something garbled] from Finland, and said that he collects drumsticks. I told him that I collect menthol cigarettes, so he sported me a couple. We all went back inside and I bought another couple rounds of beers.
Bad Religion's set itself was characterized by pretty equal measures of old chestnuts/classics ("21st Century Digital Boy," "I Want to Conquer the World," "Anesthesia," "Generator," "We're Only Gonna Die," "Fuck Armageddon (This Is Hell)," "No Control," etc.) along with several from New Maps and traversing much of their catalog (I also remember "Sorrow," "New Dark Ages," "Supersonic," "Recipe for Hate," "52 Seconds > Heroes and Martyrs," "American Jesus" and the super-rare "Skyscraper"). A pretty fair balance between new stuff and old stuff, which in all likelihood was partly due to the band allowing fans to vote for the songs they wanted to hear online (a cool touch).
Bad Religion crowds are amongst my favorite. You have the late 20s/early 30s old folk who dug BR in high school and college, tons of punk kids, and others, but these are not ignorant abusive assholes we're talking about; someone falls down in the 'pit, they're going to be helped back up. I also love that BR shows are always just a great big sing-along -- no shame in belting out the chorus to "I Want to Conquer the World" even if you're way off key.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Bad Religion show without dorky stage banter courtesy vocalist Greg Graffin, who baited the Giants fans in the crowd and joked about this show being just a "warm-up" for the upcoming evening's show in Boston, which was "the important show." This of course brought derision and catcalls from the crowd, all in good fun. At one point, the band eased into a seemingly impromptu version of "On Broadway," featuring some particularly sour backing vocals and a brief soft-shoe routine. Who knew Bad Religion were such well-rounded entertainers?
Fun show, even if my neck is fucked up from jackhammering all night and if I was so shot that I didn't roll out of bed until 1:30 PM. Can't wait until the next time these guys come around. Cheeseburger tonight. Back at ya tomorrow.