There’s really nothing quite like a good punk rock show, right? The atmosphere might be set to an aggressive simmer, but the folks around you will just as soon buy you a beer, or pick you up if you fall, as they will slam their whole body into yours without warning.
This ain’t The Bouncing Souls’ first rodeo. As the band approaches its 35th year of existence, that they’re still on the road, putting out great new records, and bringing newer bands like The Venomous Pinks or heavier, more hardcore adjacent bands like A Wilhelm Scream out with them represents a special kind of Punk Rock. Teaming up with social justice advocates and Elder Punk Rock band Anti-Flag was just as savvy, and really made for a wildly varied, entertaining, and sincerely fun night of music at Bogart's.
The Venomous Pinks started the night with a mix of Joan Jett meets The Ramones by way of Hellcat Records, a sort of in your face, unsubtle, but entertaining - and more importantly, good - take on 80’s punk. Their set was short and sweet, fast-paced and non-stop through their entire 30 minutes on stage. A super solid way to kick things off.
Next, A Wilhelm Scream played what might have been one of the best live sets I’ve ever seen? The East Coast hardcore band were all smiles as they ripped through a 30 or so minute set with riffs, yells, goofballery, smiles, and a technical panache that would make most metal bands hang up their guitars. Yes, they’ve been around 20 years, and yes, I absolutely should have started listening to them back then, but damn if I’m not stoked to have gotten a chance to see them live and have that be my first real experience with the band.
As we hit the midway point, Anti-Flag came out to loud applause and a crowd ready to keep the night moving. Politically-inclined and socially conscious on just about every level, the band speak to a very specific kind of Punk Rock fan, and certainly play to those folks on stage - but overall, they’re a band that’s been doing this long enough to know how to play to the entire crowd, as well. And for all their fans in the crowd, this might as well have been a co-headlining tour, but just the same, they were well aware of who was playing next and kept up an absolutely blistering pace. To see their bassist leap off a 6 foot high cabinet, jump an extra 3 or so feet, then land safely - and nimbly - was kind of wild, and I appreciated how engaged the band was with the crowd throughout their set. It’d been a long time since that last time I’d caught them live, so it was rad to see them still crushing it.
Closing out the night, and the reason so many punk rock moms, dads, and everyone in between came out - The Bouncing Souls. Almost 35 years old, this New Jersey band somehow sits in both the legendary and contemporary space of bands who just… get it. While their set may have been an overall calmer experience compared to the other bands on the bill, their fans were just as engaged, eager, and loud. A band of few words between songs, they made their way through obvious classics, snuck in some new tracks from their latest album, 10 Stories High. It wasn’t a raucous set by any means, even if The Bouncing Souls music plays that way, but the energy was right, their fans were excited, and it seemed like everyone was simply happy to be there. And, I’ll admit that the decade I spent in New Jersey felt a little nostalgic listening to and watching one of the most quintessential New Jersey bands to ever do it. It felt great to leave a show, you know, feeling great.
Shout out to non-profit Punk Rock Saves Lives for joining the tour - they’re doing some really rad things, so please check them out and see how you can get involved.
As always, thanks to the staff at Bogart's for being so accommodating and making this another really good time at the venue I’ve been to the most over the past 25 years.