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.
When it was announced earlier this year, the “For All the Unheard” tour seemed like a dream come true for any long time Bouncing Souls fan. Not only would the band be playing four consecutive nights in select cities, they would be playing each of their eight albums in chronological order over those four nights. They would even be playing at very small venues that would allow fans the chance to mingle with the headliners and the excellent bands tabbed as support acts. Could this marathon four-night stand live up to the high expectations fans would undoubtedly place on it? As you will see through my nightly reviews, the answer was “of course it could.”
Night One: June 22nd, 2011. The Good the Bad and the Argyle and Maniacal Laughter
Night one would begin with the Bouncing Souls first full length, The Good, The Bad, and the Argyle. Seeing that it was released in 1994, there were plenty of fans in the audience who weren’t born when it hit shelves. This was practically true of the night’s other featured album, Maniacal Laughter as well, and it seemed to have some affect on the crowd’s reaction to the set. While there were the diehards at the front who sang along to every word, many in the sold-out crowd seemed less than familiar with the older material.
While I didn’t sense the same type of energy normally found at a Bouncing Souls show, this could have been because of the fact I was sitting on a chair in the very back of the venue with my crutches propped next to me. The band did seem to hit their stride during Maniacal Laughter, ripping through the 24 minute album and providing a good number of fans with the motivation to stage dive, only to be kicked out immediately by the bouncers.
Prior to the Bouncing Souls appearance, the night had started with a set from Lenny Lashy. Unfortunately, I missed this because I was busy being soaked on the walk (crutch?) from my parking spot. If this four-night stand had been held outdoors, we all would have been in trouble. Bane served as the primary support, and the Worcester hardcore legends performed an intense 45 minute set that complemented the Bouncing Souls set nicely.
Night two: June 23rd 2011: The Bouncing Souls and Hopeless Romantic.
At the start of the Bouncing Souls set each night, a Michael Buffer-ish recording was piped through the speakers, introducing the two records as if they were competitors in a heavy weight title fight. A ring girl even elicited cheers from the crowd by parading around the stage with a giant version of the album cover. If night one had been the undercard, night two was the first round of “the moment everyone had been waiting for.”
Boston ska-punk act Have Nots kicked things off with an energetic 3o minute set that inspired plenty of circle pits and fist pumps. Not bad for an opener. Like night one, the main support was provided by another Massachussets punk stalwart, the Unseen. Lead singer Mark Unseen had been pacing around the venue for what seemed like hours, and was rearing to go as the band began its first performance in quite some time. Like Bane the night before, they played a solid 45 minute set that not only pleased those in the pit, but probably won over some new fans at the same time.
Next up (of course) were the Bouncing Souls. They had held a meet and greet with fans earlier in the night, and had seemed somewhat reserved. They might have been saving energy for the fury they knew they were about to unleash on an all too willing crowd.
With the opening notes of “Cracked” from 1997’s The Bouncing Souls, those on the floor immediately showed more energy and enthusiasm than they had the night before, and the band seemed to respond in kind. “Kate is Great” had bodies flying through the air (and of course, out the door at the hands of the bouncers). As the band powered through the album’s 16 songs, the temperature inside the venue began to skyrocket, despite the fact it was a rainy 60 degrees outside. This is a testament to the type of chaos the band was inspiring.
While the band does include a few staples from The Bouncing Souls era on most of their set lists, it was the deeper cuts that both the crowd and band seemed to enjoy the most. In fact, the crowd’s reaction to tracks such as “Toilet Song” and “East Side Mags” inspired huge sing-alongs that were even bigger than those that came with other favorites. One of the most entertaining moments of the entire series was closing number “Shark Attack,” during which normally reserved lead singer Greg Attonito couldn’t keep the smile off his face, especially during lines such as “the Bouncing Souls only go on tour so they can eat other people’s food…. those Jersey mooches.”
After a short break, the band returned to play Hopeless Romantic, and with the opening notes of the title track, it felt as if the gates had just been opened at the Kentucky Derby and both the band and the fans were off to the races. Both groups refused to slow down, even as the temperature continued to rise, and it was obvious that the band was enjoying the moment as much as everyone else in attendance.
Like the first half of the set, the crowd roared their approval whenever the band would begin another rarely played track. “Bullying the Juke Box” was the first of these cuts, and Attonito commented the band would love to keep playing the track forever. “Ole” followed shortly after, and was the song that resulted in the largest number of crowd surfers being kicked out.
For the duet “Wish Me Well (You Can Go to Hell),” the band was joined by a female guest vocalist, who perfectly traded lines with Attonito, who once again couldn’t keep a big smile off his face. “The Whole Thing” then provided a fitting ending to what had been a loud, sweaty, and downright perfect punk show. The band would really need to outdo themselves if they hoped to supply fans with anything as memorable as this show had been.
At any given Bad Religion show, there is a good chance that the band has been around longer than the majority of those who bought tickets. Celebrating their 3oth year in operation, the punk legends continue to produce quality albums and grow their fan base. Their continued success can be attributed to the fact that the band’s recent work is some of their best. The Dissent of Man, which hit shelves in September, is no exception. Touring in support of their new album, the band stopped at the House of Blues in Boston to prove that they might be old, but they can still tear it up.
The night started off with a half hour performance from Minneapolis’s Off With Their Heads. Unfortunately, an early start time meant that I wasn’t able to catch their set. However, I can say that if you like Bad Religion and haven’t checked out this band, you should. Their recent album “In Desolation” is a great punk record.
Next up were The Bouncing Souls. Having just celebrated a milestone 20th anniversary themselves, this is another band that knows something about longevity. To most in the crowd, pairing the Bouncing Souls and Bad Religion made for a dream combination, and the Jersey veterans didn’t disappoint with their set.
Racing through 15 songs, the band’s 45 minutes on stage seemed to fly by. The diehard fans at the front loved every moment of their career spanning set, as the band reached deep into their back catalog and pulled out favorites such as 1994’s “Some Kind of Wonderful” and 1997’s “Kate is Great” and “East Coast Fuck You.”
While lead singer Greg Attonito and Co. will never be accused of having great stage presence, the frontman did jump down to the barrier on a number occasions to pass the mic and get the crowd involved. The Bouncing Souls weren’t built to play a cavernous venue like the House of Blues, but they did their best to make the show feel like the sweaty punk shows their fans are accustomed to.
While the first part of their set featured older crowd favorites, the band closed with “Never Say Die/When You’re Young,” a song off their most recent album. The Bouncing Souls are lucky to have a fan base that has grown with them as their sound has changed over the years, and the audience’s reaction to this song was a testament to that.
Quickly after the Bouncing Souls had left the stage their fans began to shuffle to the back of the venue while hundreds of others rushed to the front in anticipation of what would be another great set from Bad Religion.
The band made their appearance on stage and didn’t waste any time before jumping into the fast and aggressive “Do What You Want.” The 1-minute blast from 1988’s Suffer instantly opened a giant circle pit in the middle of the floor that would rage on all night.
Like the Bouncing Souls before them, Bad Religion did their best to please everyone, playing a diverse mix of hit singles and crowd favorites, along with earlier material and the best tracks from The Dissent of Man. Needless to say, nearly every song was well received by the crowd, many of whom shouted along to every word.
While lead singer Greg Graffin may be a published author and UCLA professor by day, he steals the show on stage each night. In between sarcastic “I’m too old for this” jabs, he belted out song after song, never missing a step. Having last played Boston four years earlier, Gaffin did quite a bit of in-between song reminiscing, and even dedicated “Avalon” to the venue of the same name that was recently replaced by the House of Blues.
Popular tracks such as “21st Century Digital Boy,” “Atomic Garden” and set closer “American Jesus” inspired the biggest circle pits of the night. The fact that some of these songs were older than the fans moshing along was almost as impressive as how the songs sounded live.
At the conclusion of “American Jesus,” the band left the stage, but the usual calls for “one more song'” didn’t follow. It seemed as if those at the front were too exhausted to play that game. Gaffin and Co. did return however, all be it in less than dramatic fashion. What followed was easily one of the best encores I’ve ever seen.
This encore included a trio of Bad Religion’s very best, beginning with the rousing “Infected,” moving to the anthemic “Los Angeles is Burning” and finishing with the band’s most notable hit, “Sorrow.” I personally couldn’t have asked for anything more. It was the perfect way to end a 27 song set that had moved at a frantic pace.
With 30 years and 15 albums under their belt, you would expect a band like Bad Religion be slowing down, maybe even resting on their laurels. This obviously is not the case. Their current tour proves that they remain one of punk’s most vital acts. Not only have they inspired many of today’s top acts, they continued to show them how it’s done.
Despite its ocean front location and spacious boardwalk, Asbury Park, New Jersey will never be mistaken for one of the prettier places in the world. On this bitterly cold December day, it was downright eerie.
All that was missing from the barren beaches and parking lots was rolling tumble weed, but even that would be hesitant to brave the arctic conditions that marked the end of 2009.
The cold weather proved no match for the Bouncing Souls or their fans, who packed the venerable Stone Pony for the third of four “Home for the Holidays” performances. Like the venue itself, the Bouncing Souls are a blue collar, no frills type of band that have earned their spot in punk lore. With help from some like-minded acts, the band would put on an outstanding hometown performance.
The night began with a short set from Static Radio NJ. The band played a mix of hardcore and melodic punk that that wasn’t all that well received by the crowd. Next up was P.O.S. The Minneapolis hip-hop artist who stuck out like a sore thumb in the show’s lineup. By poking, prodding, and borderline insulting the audience, he was somehow able to get the crowd involved as those at the near the front of the stage were waving their arms and chanting along towards the end of the set.
The main support came from Bayside, another no-frills act with a history of opening for the Bouncing Souls. The band almost always puts on a solid set, and this night was no different as the crowd finally had a chance to move and sing along. The only compliant I had was that the set list was very familiar to anyone who had seen them in the past. The quartet continues to shy away from material off Shudder, their most recent, and arguably strongest record.
While the Bayside set was enjoyable, it couldn’t compare to the energetic, sweaty, nearly perfect show put on by the hometown heroes. From the opening one-two punch of “Here We Go” and “Never Say Die/When You’re Young,” until the closing notes of “The Freak, Nerds, and Romantics,” the show moved at break-neck speed.
The set list came courtesy of a local charity that was present as the show, and boy was it a good one. Celebrating 20 years as a band, it would be almost impossible to satisfy everyone, but with a perfect mix of old and new, the quartet seemed to do just that. While favorites such as “Mantham,” “Hopeless Romantic,” or any of the five songs off 1996’s Maniacal Laughter inspired giant circle pits, it was newer material that shined, including the very appropriate “Ghosts on the Boardwalk.”
Even up on stage in front of a sold-out crowd, you would think the band was playing a basement show in front of family and friends. To an extent, they were. The group had scheduled meet and greet events throughout the week, including after parties, “hang sessions,” and record store visits. They joked with those in the audience between songs, and even stopped one song to make note of how badly they had botched the opening. The group’s lack of “rock star” image or ego is another reason why they have managed to endear themselves to so many fans over the past two decades.
After closing the show with a four songs encore, the band would leave the stage having thoroughly exhausted those in the crowd. Half the fans slowly filed out onto a quiet and cold Ocean Avenue, while the other half rushed the merch table looking for a shirt or cd to help commemorate the night. Whether you walked out with souvenir or not, the show would be hard to forget. While a veteran band at the top of their game in front of an adoring hometown crowd at an intimate venue is always going to yield good results, this show was something special.