Bad Religion Preaches the Hardcore Gospel To the Observatory

By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez, Red Hare Images

Hardcore punk is more than just music. Like heavy metal, it is an attitude and a state of mind. If there is any group out there that knows how to live that lifestyle, one band that comes to mind is Los Angeles’ own Bad Religion. They formed in 1980 and have been wreaking havoc only they know how for 40 years. I admit, I never listened to Bad Religion because they were not really on my radar at the time. However, Rabit has been a die hard fan of the punk rock legends since high school. He told me the story of when he attended a school assembly that was so boring, that he played Bad Religion on his iPod for 90 minutes during the assembly. Talk about teenage rebellion and hardcore punk loyalty. After almost 40 years together, they still deliver albums that speak for social change, like their 2019 critical darling, Age of Unreason. When we found out they were coming through the Observatory, we jumped at the chance.

First to hit the Observatory stage was an interesting choice to open for Bad Religion, Dave Hause & the Mermaids. I do not know to how fully describe them except that they are an indie folk pop rock outfit that is upbeat. Frontman Dave Hause has a soulful voice that is similar in style to Ed Sheeran. From “Eye Aye I” to “Weathervane,” “We Could Be Kings,” “Civil Lives,” “Dirty Fucker,” and “The Ditch,” the group did their best to make the crowd jovial. However, I thought the group was a mismatch for this night. You have a bunch of punk rockers looking to knock some heads in the pits, and the opening act has a folksy style in their music. Do not get me wrong, they sounded decent, but I would have preferred a band that was right up the hardcore ally.

Full Dave Hause & The Mermaids gallery below:

After Hause finished up, out came the legendary hardcore outfit Bad Religion. As soon as they went into “Them and Us,” the crowd started creating the tornado of destruction in the pits. Longtime frontman Greg Graffin generated a lot of energy in the venue with his simple yet effective singing style that was to the point of each song. The guitar duo of Brian Baker (lead) and Mike Dimkich (rhythm) was spot on and caused the fans to crank their necks in circular and back-and-forth motion. Miller wore a 1950s style college sweater with a huge letter on the front, all the while spitting out harmonious riffs. Dimkich really impressed with his silk and dynamite solos. Jay Bentley thunderously wailed away on the bass, while Jamie Miller was a speedster and conqueror on the drums.

Most of the songs that Bad Religion performed were under 3 minutes at least, which explained why they played 28 songs, the biggest set list I have ever heard, and it only took an hour and a half to get through it. Known for singing about topics like war, politics (mostly left wing), religion, humanitarianism, etc., Bad Religion may have a hardcore style, but they have been known to make it harmonious and melodic. From “End of History” to “Fuck You,” “Stranger Than Fiction,” “Dearly Beloved,” “Chaos from Within,” “Los Angeles is Burning,” “My Sanity,” “Sinister Rogue,” “Recipe for Hate,” “I Want to Conquer the World,” “New Dark Ages,” “Fuck Armageddon…This is Hell,” and “Sorrow,” the crowd of punks rejoiced for hearing their favorite tunes. After a quick breather, Graffin and company returned to deliver 2 more classic tunes that gave fans a second wind, “Infected” and “American Jesus.”

Full Bad Religion gallery below:

Every song Bad Religion played was easy to sing to and I was really digging it all. Age of Unreason may be an album that attacks our President, but they did not spend much time bashing him. They just stuck to music, spreading their message, and having punk rock fun. I never thought I would end up liking Bad Religion, but I did. The Observatory sold out just to see these guys show us what punk rock is all about. They spread their gospel of hardcore, and the congregation returned home, feeling replenished in their hardcore punk souls. After 40 years, they can still create electricity, even though this is my first time. To Bad Religion and Dave Hause & the Mermaids, I salute you. Horns up!!!

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