***NB: For this post, I have added poor quality cell phone pics that I took during this show as a ticket holder. If, for some legitimate legal reason, these are not allowed to be posted here, please leave a comment and prove to me why. I will immediately remove the photos for any legitimate claims. But please know that I am simply a fan, and a lover of music, and I just want to share a bit of my experience with others. I am not profiting by this at all.
Months ago, Wilf booked us tickets to see In Flames, in Guelph. But then his work schedule changed and he couldn’t do the gig. So he got us tickets to another show instead: BAD FUCKING RELIGION!!
Now, Wilf is a long-time fan, and has seen them live a bunch of times. He can speak knowledgeably about their records and different periods and members of the group. Me, I’d never seen them live before, but I’ve owned some of their records in the past and I appreciate their thought-provoking, kick-ass brand of punk rock. I’ve also read both of Greg Graffin’s books. I’m not nearly an afficianado, but they did write one of my favourite punk songs of all time – Do What You Want. Why that one? Because it’s silly, short, and it still hits home. Anyway.
But our day wasn’t just about this show. We left early, and got some always-great Moon Bean Cafe coffee in Kensington Market, then food on Bloor and, later, on Front Street. Mostly, though, Wilf was very tolerant about following me around record shops while I dug through the bins for treasures. I don’t get out much, so I was very lucky to have the opportunity. He didn’t buy anything, a completely foreign concept to me. I found a few, and could have bought many more.
But the meat and potatoes of this evening, of course, was the show. We met up with some of Wilf’s friends in the long line-up outside the Kool Haus and, with reasonable efficiency, we were ushered inside. I got frisked by a woman whom I kept thinking was talking to me but was actually talking into a microphone hidden on her person. It was a little creepy. This is the same venue where Craig and I saw Mastodon with Dillinger Escape Plan a year and a half ago and, WAY back in the day when it was called The Warehouse, my sister, my lovely wife and I saw the Black Crowes with a terrible opener band called Moke. Anyway.
It was at the point of going into the venue where I need to point out my one major complaint about the evening. I fully intended to buy Bad Religion’s new CD from their merch table. I’d had copies of it in my hand twice earlier in the day, in record shops, but I wanted to buy it at the show, to support the band. I stood in the crowd around the table, got to the front and… they weren’t even selling the CD! T-shirts and hoodies, yes. Posters and baby onesies, yes. But not their new album! WHAT?!?! Both opening acts were selling vinyls AND CDs, but not the main act? The dude working the table was pretty rude about it, too. It was all seriously bad form. I couldn’t believe it. [UPDATE 04-03: Amazon shipped me a copy of the record in less than 48 hours.]
The opening act last night, as printed on the ticket, was slated to be Against Me!, a band I know of, but I don’t know any songs. However, something happened and Against Me! would not be playing. Instead, we got The Polar Bear Club and The Bronx as opening acts. I did not know of either band, prior to this evening, but I’m up for anything. During and between sets, we drank vastly over-priced canned beer served by young, pretty bartenders in tight clothing. It’s a tough life.
The Polar Bear Club was decent (Wilf aptly called it “cookie-cutter”) pop-punk. They were competent, and looked to be having great fun. The lead singer had all the stage moves down pat, and REALLY liked to remind us that we were in Toronto (in case we’d forgotten). He did have one annoying habit, of yelling into the mike and then yanking it away from his mouth mid-note, causing ever part of a lyric to fade out needlessly. He must think it looks cool, but it didn’t sound very good. He also mentioned the honour of playing for Bad Religion and he really meant it.
Up next was The Bronx. They also seemed to be having fun and were thrilled to be opening for BR. It was obvious from both opening acts (and from the crowd) that that band ellicits a LOT of respect in punk circles. Cool. The Bronx were very good at what they do, which was straight-on punk rock, and the singer pretty much only knew one pitch – scream. Their set was longer, and the crowd seemed to dig them, so fair play to them.
And then the roadies unfurled a huge Bad Religion backdrop behind the stage during the stage set-up, and the mood shifted into high gear in the club. When BR took the stage, the place went nuts. If you’ve heard this band’s music, you’ll know exactly how they sounded when I say that their live show sounds just like the records – only much, much louder. They went from song to song very quickly and, as you can tell from the set list (below), they hammered their way through a ton of songs. They were having good fun, but don’t be fooled – this was also total professionalism learned over decades of playing shows. It’s probably a little weird, to them, to be elder statesmen now given how young they were when they started.
One of the coincidental perks, to me, was seeing this band on Easter Sunday. The irony! Singer Greg Graffin did mention it from the stage, but he didn’t make too much fuss about it. They played many songs I had heard before, and the songs from the new record fit into the set list easily. Wilf was thrilled that they played Anesthesia (Against The Grain is his favourite of their albums). And they played my favourite, Do What You Want, as well! I was well-pleased to see many people in the crowd singing along to all the words of every song, and there was much moshing and jumping about. People take this band very seriously and have a great time while they’re at it!
Every song was offered up with total control of the huge, fast sound and, thankfully, the thought-provoking lyrics were clearly understood. We were just to the right of the soundboard, and the sound in the venue was perfect. And even after all of that, it was over too soon and the lights came up.
We got out of Toronto in good time, and were forced to drive through heavily blowing snow for a good portion of the trip home. We pulled up at my front door at 3 a.m. exactly.
Thank you Wilf, for making this trip happen, and thank you, Bad Religion, for putting on an absolutely phenomenal show. I would go again, anytime.
Here’s the setlist (copied shamelessly from the BR Page):
1 Past Is Dead*
2 We’re Only Gonna Die
3 New Dark Ages
4 True North*
6 Generator (Festival Version)
7 I Want To Conquer The World
8 21st Century (Digital Boy)
10 Sinister Rouge
11 Fuck You*
12 Recipe For Hate
14 Robin Hood in Reverse*
16 Nothing to Dismay*
18 Do What You Want
19 No Direction
20 Beyond Electric Dreams
22 Come Join Us
23 Against The Grain
24 No Control
25 Changing Tide*
26 American Jesus
28 Fuck Armageddon…This is Hell
31 Dept. of False Hope*
Whew! 31 songs! 8 of which (*) constitute exactly half of the new album, True North.