Published Apr 14, 2013Way before the venue's bouncers were panicking up front, gathered around and pointing at a 30-song Bad Religion set list ("But their songs are only 90 seconds long," a helpful fan informed them), Rochester, NY's Polar Bear Club were warming up the rapidly swelling crowd. Drawing from their three albums, the melodic hardcore band fought through some sound problems (not enough guitar, way too much vocal) and pulled out a 25-minute set that would make most opening bands proud. Vocalist Jimmy Stadt's onstage energy was a highlight as he leaped and windmilled to Polar Bear Club anthems like "Another Night in the Rock."
The Bronx, filling in for a cancelled Against Me!, came out with tons of confidence and dropped a killer set of high-octane hard punk. Speedy, choppy blasts like "Ribcage" and "Heart Attack American" sounded more like Motörhead or Zeke than the kind of SoCal punk rock most in attendance were raised on, but they won over the audience almost immediately. Frontman Matt Caughthran's "motherfucker" stage banter wore thin quickly, but he did come up with the best one-liner of the night when someone hurled a water bottle past his head ("You missed me, now you have to fist me," he quipped).
Punk rock legends Bad Religion didn't waste any time getting to work on those 30 songs on their two-and-a-half page set list. Starting with "Past Is Dead," the members of the band filtered out on stage one by one, launching into one of the handful of songs they played from their latest album, True North. But it was the band's infamous mid-paced anthems and speedy earlier material that got the sold-out crowd the most riled-up. Hearing "21st Century Digital Boy" right after "I Want to Conquer the World" was enough to blow any sweaty '90s punker's load, but hold up there, buddy, because there were still 15 songs to go! Often a hit-and-miss live band in their earlier years, Bad Religion seemed completely on point on this night. Minor quibbles with sound, including vocal problems for the first few songs and, curiously, mixing problems during the encore, didn't take away from the amazing feeling of singing along to "Infected" in a venue crammed with Bad Religion fans. They might be a better live band than ever and, even after 30-plus years of playing melodic punk rock, Bad Religion appear to be nearly flawless in their old age.