Images: Bad Religion and Off! spend April 13 and 14 at the House of Blues Las Vegas (Franks & Deans stop by)

While there is basically nothing on Earth that would get me to go to Coachella, I do enjoy the spillover effect it has on the Vegas music scene. From Ghostface Killah to Panda Bear to Brand New (check back with us for our coverage on that later), groups are taking advantage of our close proximity to Indio to squeeze in a Vegas gig.

Another case in point – Bad Religion. Compared to many other spillover bands, they’re not strangers to our scene. Bad Religion’s decades of quality punk rock and tendency to bring out great up-and-coming acts has kept me going out to see them year after year. But lately, we’ve been in a drought. Sure, we got them on Punk Rock Bowling a few years ago, and last year they found themselves in the opening spot for the Offspring at the Joint – but I’m greedy and want those deep cuts that a festival and opening spot doesn’t allow for.

Well, they must have known I’ve had a craving for deep cuts, because they split their two night stint at the House of Blues between two eras – Monday being all songs written in the 20th century and Tuesday highlighting the band’s more recent discography.

Not surprisingly, the first night garnered the most attention. You’ve got that nigh unbeatable streak of albums the band released on their guitarist Brett Gurewitz’s Epitaph Records starting with 1988’s Suffer – an album that launched about 60,000 similar bands – plus tracks from the band’s gold-selling Atlantic debut Stranger than Fiction. Hit singles “21st Century Digital Boy” and “Infected” and Punk-O-Rama favorites “You Are (The Government)” and “I Want to Conquer the World” were of course the songs that elicited the largest reaction from the sweat-soaked crowd but to me, the inclusion of “Sowing the Seeds of Utopia” – the best song no one knows from No Substance – would have been worth the price of the ticket.

Night two, which is the day our photos are from, saw the band turn its focus to albums released in the 21st century. I was curious how this day would turn out, as most Bad Religion fans were able to catch the guys touring on any of these modern albums and as such, there were far less deep cuts to unearth. The era also didn’t quite have the same highs as the previous decade – there really isn’t a Suffer or a “21st First Century Digital Boy” of the, ironically, 21st century. But what there was is consistency, meaning no New America style lows. At this stage in their career, the guys know their sound and they know what the fans want and they deliver every time.

The 21st century also brought drummer Brooks Wackerman into the fold, a guy who had logged time with The Vandals and Suicidal Tendencies before getting behind the crossbuster kit with 2001’s The Process of Belief. That album, which also saw the return of Bad Religion founder Mr. Brett and the band’s return to Epitaph, received the largest crowd response of this night.

The set kicked off with four of that album’s best tracks, “Kyoto Now!,” “Supersonic,” “Prove It” and “Can’t Stop It,“ the latter’s blistering pace causing the floor to morph into one large circle pit. Singles like “Let Them Eat War” (with bassist Jay Bentley taking over vocals for Sage Francis’ verse) from The Empire Strikes First and “Heroes and Martyrs” from New Maps of Hell got everyone pressed up against the barrier to sing along with frontman Greg Graffin. And despite Graffin’s warning that the nearly 50 mph Vegas winds of the past few days had wrecked his voice, he sounded as sharp as ever from where I was standing.

Of course, Graffin also had the rest of his band to help in the vocals department. Bad Religion’s trademark harmonies were once again on display in full force, with the guys sounding particularly tight on “Broken,” a favorite of mine from Belief, catchyThe Dissent of Man highlight “Only Rain” and the title track to the excellent True North. After hitting tracks from every 21st century album minus Christmas Songs, the band ended the main part of their set with “Sorrow,” and there wasn’t a fist left unpumped to shout “There will be sorrow no more” with Graffin and crew.

Opening both nights was Off!, who is of course fronted by ex-Black Flag and ex-Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris. Morris is a wild man on stage, staying in perpetual motion as the punk rock elder statesmen and his band powered through songs like “Now I’m Pissed,” “Crawl” and “I’ve Got News for You.”

Morris took the time between five song mini sets to address the audience and on the first night, he received “boos” (or maybe “boo-urns?”) from the crowd after expressing his dislike for the city. The second night, the interaction was a little tamer, though he did decline playing any Circle Jerks, much to the dismay of a few fans. Still, this was about as close to seeing a Bad Religion/Black Flag co-headliner in the modern day as you’re going to get, and I was glad to finally see them in a non-festival setting.

Also on the second night was Vegas’ own Franks & Deans, who were introduced by Rex Dart of the Bargain DJ Collective. Franks and Dean are all about the spectacle, with matching tuxedo shirts, guitar straps that spell out the band name, and the best on-stage dancer this side of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, though I don’t think Ben Carr would have been able to pull off that red sequins look.

The band, which specializes in punk rock takes on Rat Pack songs like “Mambo Italian,” “That’s Amore” and “Minnie the Moocher,” is likely going to receive lots of comparisons to Me First, so I might as well get that out of the way. The punked-up covers, the matching outfits and the incorporation of punk riffs, especially Alkaline Trio’s “Radio” and NOFX’s “The Brews,” is all there, just like Me First. And despite a crowd that was very sedate during all this – they really impressed with a commitment to the bit.

They’re a fun band and I recommend checking them out (maybe at the Franks & Deans Weenie Roast at the Double Down Saloon on May 6).

-Steven Matview

Photos by Aaron Mattern | https://www.flickr.com/photos/akmofoto/

Night One:

Spirit Shine
21st Century (Digital Boy)
Stranger Than Fiction
Against the Grain
Sowing the Seeds of Utopia
You Are (The Government)
1000 More Fools
How Much Is Enough?
Suffer
Delirium of Disorder
Do What You Want
The Gray Race
Atomic Garden
The Hopeless Housewife
No Direction
Anesthesia
Skyscraper
Change of Ideas
Big Bang
I Want to Conquer the World
Sanity
Henchman
Billy
You
Struck a Nerve
Slaves
The Handshake
Infected
Generator
American Jesus

Encore:
Recipe for Hate
New America
Fuck Armageddon… This Is Hell

 

Night Two:

Kyoto Now!
Supersonic
Prove It
Can’t Stop It
Los Angeles Is Burning
Only Rain
52 Seconds
Heroes & Martyrs
Broken
Fuck You
Dharma and the Bomb
Social Suicide
True North
New Dark Ages
Overture
Sinister Rouge
Wrong Way Kids
Let Them Eat War
Before You Die
Robin Hood in Reverse
Beyond Electric Dreams
Submission Complete
Dept. of False Hope
Vanity
The Defense
Dearly Beloved
Changing Tide
Sorrow

Encore:
Past Is Dead
Fields of Mars

About the author  ⁄ Steven Matview

comics, music, coffee. @Timorous_Me

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