The Bouncing Souls “For All the Unheard” Nights 3 and 4
As the last notes of the set faded and the crowd began to file out into another rainy June night, the sense of ecstasy that had been so prevalent at the conclusion of the past three nights was noticeably absent. It wasn’t because fans were disappointed with the Bouncing Souls’ performance in the last installment of their four night residency at the Middle East in Cambridge MA. The band had just turned in another memorable effort, performing their two most recent albums in their entirety, along with a handful of b-sides.
So why the lack of enthusiasm from the exiting crowd? One reason could be the fact that nearly everyone in attendance was exhausted. After four straight nights of late set times, intense heat, and (most importantly) epic performances, this would be expected. The more pertinent reason fans seemed somewhat down was the fact that it was over. After four straight nights of (basically) hanging out with one of punk’s all-time great bands, there would be no fifth night. While the Bouncing Souls were sure to return to Boston, they would probably never do it in such an extravagant way, for so many nights in a row, or at such an intimate venue. The second half of the stand had been even more memorable than the first and showcased how far the band has come over the past 22 years.
Night three: June 24rd 2011: How I Spent My Summer Vacation and Anchors Aweigh
The third night of the series would not only be a treat for fans, it would also be a test. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is regarded by many to be the Bouncing Souls best work, guaranteeing a very enthusiastic crowd. It would then be followed by their longest record, the 16 song, 48 minute Anchors Aweigh.
While the Bouncing Souls had chosen a great lineup of opening acts for the other three nights, it was the lineup at this show that stood out. First up was Dave Hause of the Loved Ones performing a solo set. Hause released an acoustic record earlier this year, and while I had listened to it briefly, I failed to realize just how good it was.
Hause’s performance was the rare opening set that completely absorbed everyone in the audience. Instead of chatter and side conversations, all eyes and ears were fixed on the stage, and Hause received quite the applause at the conclusion of each track. He kept the crowd engaged with between song banter, relaying a story about his nine hour, $4 bus ride from Philadelphia and then at one point calling out a heckler in the front row. While it was a great 30 minutes of music, it wouldn’t be Hause’s only appearance on stage that night.
The next act was Brooklyn cult favorites World/Inferno Friendship Society. The band was making their second appearance in Boston in little over a month after a rousing headlining show at the Paradise in May. Not the type of band to normally share the spotlight, they were forced to cut at least a few staples from their set. This didn’t mean that they cut down on the theatrics, however, as lead singer Jack Terricloth and Co. fed off the energy of the diehard fans in attendance.
Earlier in the night, Terricloth had joined Hause to play harmonica during one his tracks, and Hause repayed the favor, joining the band on stage as guitarist for two songs. Throughout the 45 minute set, it seemed like about half the crowd was completely into it, while the other half was somewhat weirded out by the whole spectacle. The band played a number of songs from the recently released “The Anarchy and the Ecstasy,” which were once again very impressive live, especially “Canonize Philip K. Dick, OK?” After Terricloth had exhausted his between song antics, the band closed with “The Models and the Mannequins.” This came as a relief to at least some members of the crowd.
After another short break and “welcome to the main event” style introduction, the Bouncing Souls took the stage for to the tune of “That Song.” The energy that had built up throughout the night exploded into a sea of fists and crowd surfers as nearly everyone in the room sang along. With each track from “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” being a finely crafted burst of punk energy and aggression, the intensity level never really died down until the final notes of “Gone” had been played.
While the crowd was obviously enjoying the show, this unbridled joy could also be seen on the stage. Hause joined the band for a number of songs, and sported a huge smile when he wasn’t singing along with the crowd. When I ran into him at Dunkin Donuts the next morning (name drop?), he wouldn’t commit to it being the highlight of his life, but he did say it was “pretty cool.”
After finishing the 13 tracks that made up the first half of the set, things began to get sticky. The temperature had risen at least 30 degrees, and now the band was set to play their longest album, Anchors Aweigh. While the album does have its moments, it doesn’t feature the same type of upbeat energy that is standard on most of the band’s other albums. Being the product of a rough spot in the band’s history, it is darker and more introspective, and made for a rollercoaster of a live set.
This portion of the set got off to a very quick start with opener “Apartment 5F” and “Kids and Heroes,” and it seemed like both the crowd and the band were determined to maintain the furious pace they had set earlier. I had never heard the band play “Kids and Heroes” live, which is surprising considering it is one of the highlights of their entire catalog. It seems written to inspire huge sign-alongs at sweaty punk shows, and that is exactly what it did.
Other songs throughout the set inspired the same type of reaction, but most of them came from the first half of the album. After that point, the reality of the heat and the length of the show began set in, and the enthusiasm level fell quickly. All the while, the band refused to wilt, powering through each song unaffected by the conditions. They closed the set on a quiet note with the acoustic hidden track “Fall Song.”
Night Four: June 25th 2011, The Gold Record and Ghosts on the Boardwalk
The fourth and final night of the series would turn out to be different from the first three in a number of ways. First off, it wasn’t raining. This was a big plus for many fans, especially for those who showed up at the same time, because the band had insisted that all four shows be “will call only,” to eliminate scalping.
This meant that instead of distributing physical tickets, fans had their names added to a list that was kept at the door to the venue. As fans arrived, they had to show their ID to gain entrance. While I showed up early each night and never had to wait in a long line to get in, many fans entered the show drenched, which is never a good way to start your night.
Another difference from nights 1-3 was the fact that somehow, this show was not sold out. While I’ll admit that most fans wouldn’t consider either of the night’s albums their absolute favorite Bouncing Souls record, I must say that I would take the combination of these two albums over any other night’s lineup.
Another factor in the non-sell out may have been the openers. Neither Iron Chic or Make Do and Mend brought the same type of recognition or fan bases that at least one band had during the previous three shows. However, that isn’t to say they both weren’t solid acts. Iron Chic’s thirty minute set of throwback punk with gruff vocals was very impressive, and I ended up buying their latest full length. Make Do and Mend also played a strong set, although their songs began to blend together seeing as I wasn’t familiar with any of their material.
The Bouncing Souls entered to the now familiar boxing match theme for the final time, and got started with 2006’s Gold Record opener “The Gold Song.” While this is a fast-paced track to begin with, the band seemed to play it twice as fast, challenging the crowd to keep up with the chorus of “heys!” “The Pizza Song” featured a number of guest musicians, including accordion and trumpet players, and sounded nearly as good as the recorded version. “Better Things” was a highlight of the set, as was the fan favorite and live show staple “Lean on Sheena.”
The politically-charged “Letter from Iraq” is one of my favorite Bouncing Souls songs, and I was thrilled to finally hear it played live. The only unfortunate part about the track was the fact that its “bring the troops home” message is just as relevant and pressing today as it was when the Gold Record was released five years ago.
In addition to being a great collection of songs like “Letter from Iraq,” The Gold Record stands out because of its sequencing. From beginning to end, every track seems perfectly placed, with each one nicely transitioning to the next. This was very apparent at the end of the set, as “Midnight Mile” and “For All the Unheard” acted as a tremendous closing pair. While these aren’t the type of songs that inspire a huge amount of crowd interaction, it was obvious everyone was enjoying every second.
Next up was the band’s latest album, Ghosts on the Boardwalk. Released as a series of single tracks each month throughout 2009, the album isn’t nearly as cohesive as The Gold Record. Of course, this had little to no effect on the live set, which began with “Gasoline” and “Never Say Die.” The crowd had caught their breath towards the end of The Gold Record, and they were now ready to give it their all.
At one point in the show, a brave stage diver realized that the Middle East security crew that had kicked out scores of fans over the first three nights, suddenly seemed uninterested in enforcing the venue’s strict policies. They had most likely been told by the band to “chill out,” and because of it, there were bodies flying through the air for the rest of the night.
The band’s performance of “Badass” was the most memorable song of the set, as cue cards appeared on stage to help the band remember all the “badass” things called out over the song’s two minutes and 38 seconds. The band then brought their eighth and final full-album set to a close with two of the record’s stronger and more melodic tracks, “We All Sing Along” and “Like the Sun.”
Despite the fact they had just played two albums that both clocked in at over forty minutes in length, the band would continue with a series of b-sides and rare tracks. I’ll admit that I’m not very familiar with their material outside of their full lengths, and it seemed like about half the crowd was in the same boat. However, this didn’t stop anyone from continuing the moshing and stage diving, and at least a few diehard fans got quite a treat in hearing these songs.
I do know they closed with “Wayfarer,” a Hot Water Music cover the band put out on a split 7 inch earlier in the year. The set ended on a high note, but you could feel a sense of instant nostalgia among the fans filing out of the venue.
The “Four All the Unheard” four night series had not only showcased how far the band had come over their 22 years, but it was also a testament to how much of their success they owe to their fans. If you’ve ever been a diehard fan of a certain band, you probably know what it’s like for them to not play your favorite forgotten track. The Bouncing Souls gave diehard fans exactly what they had been hoping for, which was the chance to hear that song. There were no real surprises, just a collection of great music and a band further strengthening the bond they have with their supporters.