Rancid @ the Fillmore Auditorium - Reverb - Reverb

Rancid @ the Fillmore Auditorium

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Walking down Clarkson Street toward the Rancid show Saturday night, I was overwhelmed with feelings of adoration and respect for a band I was unexpectedly excited to see.

A warm but mild summer evening set in as kids littered the sidewalk of the beautiful 1907 (now-christened) Fillmore Auditorium in small groups, some smoking, some kissing, some gathered around a boy playing “Salvation” on a beat-up acoustic guitar. It was like a millennial punk Summer of Love.

The evening was an odd but appropriate line-up that in addition to Rancid, included I Am Ghost, Murphy’s Law and sunny Bremerton pop punk sweethearts, MxPx. It is strange that a band barely into their 30s are considered veterans of scene still dominating teenage girl minds, but when The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” began blaring from the PA as they made a grand entrance, it was obvious why. Eight albums into their career, MxPx played a mix of old and new, beginning with “Secret Weapon,” off of their latest release of the same name, followed by “Under Lock and Key” and “Sometimes You Have to Ask Yourself” from 1996’s Life In General.

Vocalist/Bassist Mike Herrera’s stage antics remained unchanged over the last decade as I watched him leap and pounce about, hanging back under the microphone and sneering through “Tomorrow’s Another Day” and “Shut It Down.” Herrera then completed an across-the-stage Krist Novoselic-style bass toss and switch to a roadie stage right, and with new bass in hand, marched on through “Doing Time” and “Heard That Sound” off of their 2005 release, Panic.

Remaining consistent in appearance, sound, and presence, MxPX rolled through “Buildings Tumble” and the prickly, pseudo-punk “Contention.” Guitarist Tom Wisniewski slickly tossed his guitar pick into the crowd and MxPx played an uninspiring version of Ramones’ “the KKK Took My Baby Away.” High school chills ran down my spine as they closed the set with “Punk Rawk Show,” sweetly said their goodbyes and thank yous to the antsy crowd and then snuck away.

For reasons still unknown, Herrera approached me after the set, introduced himself, and swept my friend Sarah and I down into the hull of the Fillmore for a bit. (I guess my smiling like a creep at my high school pop punk crush had its benefits.) We sat on the cold leather couches and talked about Olympia, Washington, the Descendents, and the changing face of the Warped Tour. Before too long, I could hear that Rancid had begun playing, so I politely excused myself and emerged from the basement as they were halfway through “Roots Radicals.”

Two thirds of the venue was full-fledged pit brimming with Mohawks, bald heads and fists aimed at the sky, limbs throbbing and pulsating in a sea of indescribable heat. Shaking their fingers and guitar picks at the human mass, guitarist Lars Frederickson, guitarist Tim “Lint” Armstrong and bassist Matt Freeman tossed vocal duties back and forth through “Journey to the End of The East Bay,” “Tenderloin” and “Nihilism.”

Vocally, Rancid is a band blessed with three unique and equally powerful singers, a mix of Lint’s yowling singsong, Freeman’s pleasant but forceful bark and Lars’ gruff harmonizing. No voice overpowers the other, instead supporting and utilizing their differences through some of Rancid’s most commanding tracks together, showcased live in songs like “Gunshot” and “Olympia Washington.”

Dressed in white bondage pants and a UK Subs T-shirt, Lars stood attentively on stage and growled, “It’s nice to be back in Colorado with all of you beautiful people,” before spitting off to the side and singing, “Old Friends.” A strategically placed equipment box sat behind a monitor, acting as a perch for Lint as he rested and sang “Rat in the Hallway,” while Freeman showcased his admirable bass playing, fingers flying up and down the length of the fret board.

In a past life, half of Rancid was Operation Ivy, and the band paid homage to the humble beginning with a stunning and raw version of “Knowledge.” (An older fan next to me who had been studying my note-taking peered over and saw me singing along. He then said matter-of-factly, “Well, at least you know the old songs.” I wanted to remark that appearances could be deceiving, but just smiled instead.)

The crowd swelled as the band started in on “Salvation,” and the chorus was perfectly punctured by the audience sing-along. Lint sat down once again and sang “Who Would’ve Thought” as singed black-and-white images of the band were smeared across the giant screen behind him. Rancid rattled through “Life Won’t Wait,” “I Wanna Riot” and “St. Mary” as Lint skipped and stepped about center stage, Lars and Freeman standing guard at either side.

Lint tipped his guitar toward the ground and wore the instrument like a cigarette girl with a full tray, freeing his hands to grab the mic as he sang a heartbreaking rendition of “Radio.” Rancid began to wind down the show by playing “Ruby Soho,” and with less than 15 minutes left to the curfew of their all ages crowd, they played the danceable and glorious “Time Bomb” for the finale.

Leaving the venue after such impressive show, the feeling of happiness I had come with lingered. I thought about Operation Ivy, and how out of that brief but explosive union came Rancid, a band that took punk rock and made it accessible to suburban kids like me; no credibility was needed to like Rancid. They balance songs about radicalism and homelessness with songs of love and friendship, and have pushed this powerful image to the forefront of their career.

But unlike some predecessors and counterparts, they have not supported violence, negativity or the illusion that hate is an aspect of punk necessary for impact. Instead, Rancid push the basic punk ideals of unity, respect and love for each other, and after almost two decades of playing together, show these ideals to be important now more than ever. Rancid’s Denver appearance may just have been the feel good concert of the summer.

Bree Davies is a Denver-based writer and regular Reverb contributor. Check out her website and blog.

Photo from Flickr.com.

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