Words + Photos By: Adam Parshall
I remember a few years ago, right after Trump was elected, a lot of people were saying (well, they were internet people so maybe it was just one person and it got retweeted a bunch, I don’t know) “well at least there will be some great punk rock to come out of this presidency.” First, let’s try not to reduce the election of one racist orange idiot to a simple positive of one genre of music “getting good again,” as if it was bad pre-Trump (and also this does a huge disservice to a ton of other genres like hip hop, metal, rock n roll, etc.). Second…I recall thinking, “well, Bad Religion is still/has been around for, like, 40 years and are still making relevant, political, socially conscious, pissed off punk.”
Case and point, their current tour behind their most recent record, Age Of Unreason. Similar to 2004’s The Empire Strikes First, this record is another direct middle finger to a sitting Republican president. Not that a “fuck you” punk record to a Republican president is anything really new, but it’s always nice to see personal convictions and a desire to put volume to emotion when any of the dudes of Bad Religion could have taken a break.
Starting things off were Dave Hause and the Mermaid, another man not known for mincing words. While he didn’t bust out his ode to the #MeToo movement, “Warpaint,” the former Loved Ones’ singer busted out his own anti-Trump blast with “Dirty Fucker,” with its stomping, rollicking roots rock echoing over the hall to claps and cheers. With a stripped-back band (brother Tim Hause being on vacation and regular collaborator Kayleigh Goldsworthy plying her trade on the Frank Iero tour this summer), Hause and co. bounced around the stage and leaned hard into their twangier Americana vibes with tracks mostly off his new record, Kick. Although a Loved Ones track did sneak its way into the set (“Jane” off 2006’s Keep Your Heart), Hause seems to be enjoying his role as a singer-songwriter, diving into heartland rock like so many punk singers before him, but with some additional Philly soul and heart-on-your-sleeve ballads like “Saboteurs” and “We Could Be Kings.”
David Hause and the Mermaid
After Hause closed with “With You” from 2017’s Bury Me In Philly, Bad Religion decided to do what they do best: speed through a set that can only be described as “Skate Punk 101,” i.e. 28 songs in a freakin’ hour and fifteen minutes. Yeesh. That’s a band that knows how to do their thing. With a backdrop of blood-red letters and a collage of BR logos throughout the last four decades, the SoCal punks (and one DC punk in Brian Baker) ripped through the thinking punk’s set. Dr. Greg Graffin lecturing through song and giving a fair bit of not so subtle “Fuck You” (the song and the sentiment made appearances at this gig, don’t worry) to the socio-political climate we’re all experiencing right now (we’ve recently had three mass shootings in three days so, yes, we still need bands to be singing about “fuck the government and the people running stuff”). Pulling from thirteen of their seventeen studio albums, Graffin and the gang’s words and songs played live exactly like you’d think they’d play in 2019 vs. when many of them were written: way too goddamn poignant. Backed by the harmonies of Baker, longtime bassist Jay Bentley, and drummer Jamie Miller, Graffin pointed and matter-of-factly sang his way through some of Bad Religion’s most beloved singles, including “Fuck Armageddon…this is Hell,” “You,” (dedicated to those in the audience who, according to Graffin, “just like skateboarding”), “21st Century Digital Boy,” and “Stranger Than Fiction” (again…almost too poignant). But the band barreled through like they were still in their 20s, playing to small clubs in LA, with Bentley jumping around and swinging his bass wildly, and Graffin missing everything but a chalkboard and podium. Why do I keep bringing up the fact that Greg Graffin has a Ph.D. and Bad Religion veer towards the intellectual, the lecturing, the “dear lord, how do you not know this?” of it all? Because, especially now, while everything is on fire, maybe we need a smart, old school LA punk band who’s been around the block and knows what’s what to slap some sense into us.