May 22, 2024

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Perhaps this is what’s really meant by punk rejection of conventions? Legendary legacies to clearwater baycare sound: Photos, Video

Live Review: Social Distortion with Bad Religion and Love Crimes – Baycare Sound, Clearwater, Florida, 2024.

It’s widely known that Southern California has been the international epicenter of punk—in its many forms, including hardcore, skate-punk, & pop-punk—for decades now, long surpassing rival scenes.

Two of the survivors and still-thriving practitioners are celebrating their decades of influence and loyal audiences by touring together for the first time. While each comes from a different scene and references in SoCal—the San Fernando Valley and Orange County—Bad Religion and Social Distortion each has marked its music with an identifying set of themes and sounds.

The bands’ current tour has enjoyed strong turnouts nationwide thus far, and the show at Clearwater’s The Baycare Sound venue was no different. Out in force was a collective fanbase spanning the bands’ traditional audiences plus an enthusiastic generation of younger fans.

Bad Religion—fronted by longtime frontman and established scientist Greg Graffin—continues to deliver melodicism, sharp critical acumen, and strong technical execution, playing both well-known parts of its catalog (“Infected”, “Stranger Than Fiction”) and recent material (“My Sanity”). A light-hearted moment in their set that served as a reminder of the band’s iconoclastic purvey came when Graffin and a guitarist wondered about whether the sounds would disturb the occupants of an adjacent building. The guitarist quipped that they only test for clarity there, knowing fully well who actually occupies the premises.

Social Distortion—consisting of principal Mike Ness—has a grittier sound and themes rooted more in early rock and roll and rougher country. Ness, who has battled health issues recently, was in fine voice and brought a poignance to the evening when humbly discussing his faceoff with mortality. Several points in the set strongly registered with the audience, including having his son Julian (of the opening act the Love Crimes) join in on backing guitar, as well as a stirring rendition of signature tune “Ball and Chain” whose meaning the intertwined couples in the crowd took at face value.

Much to this author’s surprise, part of the audience was a family affair, with dads making it a night out with their son or daughter. It speaks to how the truths of each band’s music resonates with not only the original fanbase but also an ensuing generation. It also speaks to the ability of this music to bond people

Speaking of bonding, there was also a welcome camaraderie between punters in the audience and gracious behavior. Considering the music of the evening was punk rock—which might carry connotations of social rejection and rebellion—this comes in sharp contrast to traditional baby boomer acts whose audiences lately have left much to be desired in the realm of decorum and behavior at concerts. Perhaps this is what’s really meant by punk rejection of conventions?

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