Bouncing Souls and Bad Religion at the House of Blues Boston

It’s a good thing I’m not a reviewer (of music OR books), because this is not terribly current; then again, if it was my job to review things, I would review them promptly, and it would be other things that fell by the wayside instead. Can’t be all things to all people all the time.

Anyway, 10/18 was the Bouncing Souls/Bad Religion show at the House of Blues that I’d been looking forward to for ages. I’ve been listening to both these bands’ music for years; I’ve seen them live several times each, and their live shows have been consistently some of the best I’ve been to. They have great energy, a good attitude, appreciation for their fans (without being overly talkative), and great music. The Souls have been together for over twenty years – I saw them play on their 20th anniversary tour in New York – and Bad Religion has been together for thirty. So you could say they’ve also had some practice; for (punk) rock bands, they’re very workmanlike – not consumed with being rockstars, but also not bored with what they do. So, I was really looking forward to seeing them play together.

The Bouncing Souls went on first. I didn’t keep track of the setlist as closely as I usually do, and they played some songs I didn’t know – I don’t have all their albums – but they did play “Kate is Great” and “ECFU!” from Tie One On; “Hopeless Romantic” from Hopeless Romantic; “Highway Kings” from Anchors Aweigh; and “Lean On Sheena” from The Gold Record.

Bad Religion headlined, and were great as usual, though they played a lot of songs I didn’t recognize (again, I don’t have encyclopedic knowledge of their whole canon, but I was there with friends who were also fans, and they said the same). I know they played “Generator” and “21st Century Digital Boy” and “American Jesus” as they almost always do, in addition to “Los Angeles Is Burning,” “Infected,” “Sinister Rouge,” “New Dark Ages,” “Sorrow,” and “Requiem for Dissent.”

Bad Religion is one of those bands whose lyrics are dense, tightly packed, indecipherable to new listeners, and have a political agenda; Process of Belief was the first album of theirs that I really got into, and it took a while me to absorb it. I do love how there are words in their songs that you never expect to hear in music. For example, take this line from “Materialist” off Process: “You’re obsessed and distressed ’cause you can’t make any sense / of the ludicrous nonsense and incipient senescence / that will deem your common sense useless…” Incipient senescence?! I know a lot of liberal arts colleges now have History of Rock ‘n’ Roll courses; I think some history and political science professors could get together and make a great course based on Bad Religion lyrics. (Antioch? Hampshire? Wesleyan?)

Bad Religion certainly isn’t the only band with an extensive and unusual vocabulary; I recently noticed the word “dirigible” in the song “Sons & Daughters” on the Decemberists album The Crane Wife, and years ago I had to look up “autoclave” (from “Fall Victim” off Alkaline Trio’s Crimson). Interesting fact: 90 percent of all text consists of only 7,500 words. I read this in a textbook for school, Reference and Information Services in the 21st Century, in the chapter about dictionaries; the Macmillan English Dictionary bases its selection for inclusion on this fact. As there are, conservatively, a quarter of a million words in the English language, the fact that most books, newspapers, etc. only use the same 7,500 over and over again is…well, not so surprising, really, but it makes it all the more delightful when an unexpected one shows up, doesn’t it? [End of word nerd segment.]

Anyway, back to the House of Blues – it was a good show, and the audience was relaxing to be a part of; the average Bouncing Souls or Bad Religion fan is usually older and male, which is infinitely preferable to dealing with a mass of screaming thirteen-year-old girls making heart shapes with their hands and having the spatial sense, collectively, of a six-month-old golden retriever. (Thus spake the Ancient One who wore foam earplugs and went straight home to bed.)

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