For all who missed the first night of the Bad Religion weekend at the Ogden Theater, which included OFF! and King Rat, you might have missed the seminal beginnings to how Bad Religion will play out the rest of its career. With over 300 songs in the catalogue, Greg Graffin of Bad Religion acknowledged that it’s becoming insufficient fanfare to play just one night at each tour stop. Denver was the first to witness a two night visit – completely different sets. The nights were themed as songs of the 20th and 21st centuries. Although I was unable to attend both nights, I was left wishing I had a ticket to see songs of the 21st century as well.
The night’s support featured two I had never heard. King Rat, who I learned to be Denver veterans of more than twenty years, was a four-piece of straight forward punk. I was standing next to a couple of guys who were very excited to see King Rat and Bad Religion specifically, and they fittingly described King Rat’s style as ‘no bullshit.’ Nearly every song was played fast, only slowing things down intros and transitions. For me, the most notable part of King Rat’s set was the vocal harmonies. These subtle bits of song engineering weren’t in every song, but when they were, they were usually in the chorus, performed well, and would inject the leads with energy and anthem. In fact, despite Bad Religion’s iconic ‘oozin’-aahs,’ King Rat delivered more backup vocal work than anyone on the night. As the venue dumped back onto Colfax, I was hand-billed about an upcoming double-vinyl that King Rat is crowdfunding, so check that out on their social media. I have no shame in plugging a band’s hard work.
As for the second support band I’d never heard, I spent the first half of their set puzzled as to where I recognized the singer’s voice. At first, I was sure it was the guy from U.S. Bombs, or the singer of Strike Anywhere based on the hair, but aged by twenty additional years. Who was this guy? Then it hit me. Early Black Flag! I had heard of the band before, but I wasn’t aware OFF! was actually a rock super-group fronted by Keith Morris of Black Flag and Circle Jerk fame. Needless to say, it was a treat watching these guys play. Morris acted like he was losing his mind – sometimes paranoid, often lost, comically confused, angry, and prone to hallucination. The stage persona made for a visually interesting set on top of an impressively tight instrumental section. The members around Morris were younger, and furthermore, were all but athletes; jumps, spins, small circular laps around the area immediately in front of their cabinets to name a bit of the theatrics. Overall, very little of the set was played with predictable percussion rhythms and sing along elements. Off! never seemed to care about the hook, but I don’t feel they needed to. The set was tight and rhythmically interesting. And… the approach was fun. Keep it weird, guys. Seriously.
Finally, Bad Religion came on after what felt like an eternity, due to a firm start that was still a good sum of minutes after Off!’s last song. I have to say that the setup was itself worth watching, though. From the vintage amps to the drum set, clad with their logo, to the five minutes of introductory music and house lights before the first song and the arrival of the members on stage, the atmosphere felt like something big was going to happen. Of course, the band predictably came on stage and played an hour and a half of music, but I still appreciated the anticipation created by the Ogden prior to the first song. Once we were fully underway, Bad Religion played a set of songs that everyone knew. This was no surprise. What was impressive was that they were able to fill an entire hour and a half with these songs that would ignite the entire crowd, and this only came to represent half of their catalogue. I was waiting for the song or two that the crowd would mumble along to, but it never came. After the show, I thought about the records that didn’t get any attention due to their post-2000 release. Some of my absolute favorite Bad Religion songs are on those albums, and I still felt like I saw one hell of a show. At times, I even felt like the band was performing better than previous times I’d seen Bad Religion, years before Greg would perform with white hair. For those who managed to catch both nights of Bad Religion at the Odgen Theater in Denver, I envy you for your good decision-making.
* all photos by Jamy Cabre