Thus far, 2010 has been a back-breaking year of raucous, throwdown rock shows -- but nothing has touched the sheer perfection that was Bad Religion's performance at Riot Fest Chicago.
If you've never heard of Riot Fest, here's the quick breakdown. Every year, some of the most prominent punk rock bands of all time, including active and inactive bands on the Chicago scene, come together for a five-day event where punk rock rules a huge chunk of the most important venues in the city. Riot Fest inhabits the Metro, Subterranean, Double Door, Cobra Lounge and the Exit, with all of the "main stage" bands playing the Congress Theater, one of my favorite venues in the city. The amps warm up, feedback rings unabashed and the punkers young and old come out of the woodwork to enjoy some of the genre's best old and new acts. This year, Friday's Congress Theater show was a solid lineup -- but only two of the four bands really delivered.
The reception the Bouncing Souls got from the usually accepting crowd was kind of depressing. I saw a couple of punkers flipping the bird and eventually leaving the showroom, which was a good way to sum up the crowd's lukewarm feelings. Of course, I didn't feel like the Souls did much to help their cause; a lot of the setlist was on the poppier side, and it feels like the band is losing a little edge with age.
The Circle Jerks met with adversity following a sound gaffe that really took the air out of the first few songs. Once they cranked up the volume, they sounded alright; they still had trouble winning me over. Maybe it's because the Circle Jerks are so far outside my generation, or maybe it's just because they're old and out of practice, but I just wasn't into it. And I'm a guy who likes his old school punk.
Regardless, the Lawrence Arms took the stage and blew the lid off the whole event. They seemed less drunk than usual and benefited greatly from the hometown audience. Playing some of the best songs in the arsenal, TLA riveted the crowd for the main event.
It was a knock-down, drag-out show. Bad Religion took the stage hard and fast and didn't stop until the lights went up. I couldn't imagine a bad set-list from the accomplished punkers, which is probably why they rolled easily through the entire show with nary a poor song. Frontman Greg Graffin's voice is always flawless live, and drummer Brooks Wackerman plays like he's on a track. The wall of guitar and bass, of course, helps to create a wall of sound that captivates and dominates the audience.
Honestly, it's hardly worth it for me anymore to review a Bad Religion show. They've got this performing thing down pat. Anyone else go to the show?
"Rain fell like judgment across my windowpane / said it felt like judgment but it was only rain."
- Bad Religion, "Only Rain"