The Vandals, Pennywise, Bad Religion, The Offspring
Stage AE – Pittsburgh, PA
29 July 2014
While I can’t say the Summer Nationals tour started off without a hitch on Tuesday, I also can’t say that the small technical problems hindered the show in any way. It was fun, loud and not disappointing (as I expect the new Ninja Turtles movie will be).
Due to an unfamiliarity with the area and my friend’s infuriating habit of driving the speed limit we arrived just in time to see the Vandal’s finish up their cover of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” This didn’t bother me too much as I’m not really a fan of the Vandals. Their stuff is good, but all that really sticks out to me is the covers.
We were discussing whether Pennywise took their name from the clown in Stephen King’s “It” when they took the stage and opened with a song about said antagonist. Pennywise is another band that I haven’t been able to get into due to the fact that all of their songs sound the same to me. However, they did do an awesome cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop” and a few of their originals make me want to explore them a bit more. I also feel inspired to write a song where the chorus consists solely of the letters ‘O’ and ‘H.’
My biggest problem with Bad Religion is that I’m not extremely familiar with their material. I know their songs better than I did when I saw them a few years ago, but still only well enough to recognize and sing along with the titles. It’s great to see the awesome rhythm section of Wackerman (is there any better name for a drummer?) and Bentley. I didn’t recognize Brian Baker at first, I think he lost a bit of weight. And newcomer Mike Dimkick did a good job replacing Greg Hetson. Of course, the best part is Greg Graffin, who is now quite bald and totally gray. He’s not your typical punk madman, but instead performs more like the college professor that he is during the off season.
I was hoping the crowd would clear out a little for the Offspring. After all, they’ve achieved massive success and according to many punk purists would be considered sell outs. Then I remembered how much all the jocks I hated in school liked them. But still they played an awesome set. It was great to see Smash performed in it’s entirety. I grew up listening to that album and it’s meant quite a lot to me over the years. It was probably my introduction to punk. I know every song and by the end my jaw was sore from singing along so much. Everyone at the venue was disappointed when the crowd didn’t go into the “drivers are rude…” part in “Bad Habit,” but after a bit of a prompt we did all sing along with “Stupid dumbshit goddamn mother fucker!” After Smash and “Intermission” they returned to the stage and played another set, mostly from Americana. I would have liked to have heard them play “Gone Away,” but other than that I really can’t complain about the songs they chose, at least they didn’t play “Hit That.”
I had fun, but there are a few gripes. Sage AE seems like a pretty cool place right in the shadow of Heinz field (I want to watch The Dark Knight Rises again to see if I can spot it), but why do they have to end the show at 11 pm? That just seems like a completely unreasonable time to end a rock show, even for the old farts we were there to see.
And I think being an open air theater caused the sound to diffuse away from the stage pretty quickly. As I age, I tend to like to avoid the mosh pits and crowd at the front of the stage, but at Stage AE, standing back left me without that kicked-in-the-face-by-rock feeling that makes me love live music. And while standing back allowed me plenty of space, the opportunity to people watch and check out cool t-shirts, it also bought the frustrating distractions of selfies, couples kissing and people walking around. I think next time I’ll have to suck it up and hop in the pit to get the experience I want. My ears weren’t even ringing by the end.
I have to say I got my moneys worth and had a good time, but I think if I’d been a little close to the stage my mind would have been blown.
I’d also like to give a shout out to the singer from Last Day’s Pay who I saw at the show. If you like the bands I saw here, you’ll probably like LDP. Give them a listen.
While this doesn’t exactly conform tom my series on 20-year-old albums, the fact that The Offspring are playing their 1994 breakthrough Smash and Bad Religion are celebrating 20 years since Stranger Than Fiction I’m going to include links to my other Platinum Anniversary Albums:
Part 1: Weezer – “The Blue Album”
Part 2 Soundgarden – Superunknown
Part 3 Hole – Live Through This