Few punk rock bands seem more suited to maturity than Bad Religion. That’s not to say their music is some sort of tame-punk easy listening. It’s just that since their inception thirty years ago, there has been a maturity to their music missing in the work of many of their pop-punk brethren.
While SoCal contemporaries like NOFX and Social Distortion offer sneering, and, at times, aimless rebellion, Bad Religion bandleaders Greg Graffin (vocals) and Brett Gurrewitz (guitar) have consistently focused their anger on topics such as politics, social justice and, of course, religion (surprise: they don’t like it very much, at least in organized form, as evidenced by their ubiquitous cross in a no-smoking ring logo).
The band, currently in the midst of a celebratory 30th anniversary tour in support of their 15th album, “The Dissent of Man,” played a long set at the Fillmore spanning an impressive range of short and fast three-chord punk-pop nuggets. The formula for a BR song has remained fairly consistent over the years: simple, aggressive riffs, breakneck blast-beat tempos and big choruses with soaring three part harmonies. Graffin’s voice, a smooth mid-range baritone that has always stood out among most of his snotty-voiced punk contemporaries, remains unharmed by the passing years, and the band’s famously tumultuous lineup has settled into a dynamic groove after seven years of consistency. For the choruses they received no small amount of help from the age-diverse crowd, who seemed familiar with tracks from all the eras of the band.
“How many people here think this is the end of Bad Religion?” asked Graffin as the band’s set drew to a close. “As we enter retirement age?” The response came with a resounding chorus of boos. “Well, as long as you guys keep asking, we’ll keep playing.” It’s a testament to the power of the bands catchy, yet high-minded punk rock that, 30 years into it, people are still asking.
Jonathan S. Gang is a Denver-based writer, musician and general adventurer.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.