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Review: Bad Religion, Nofx, and Pour Habit, Auckland Town Hall, 04/10/09 by underground

New Zealand doesn’t get too many bands visit from overseas, let alone two heavy-weights at one single show. So when news broke earlier this year that Bad Religion and Nofx would play the Auckland Town Hall together, the punk scene was stoked.

Name any modern punk band and either Bad Religion or Nofx influenced their sound or gave them their break. Both bands born in the earlier 1980s, they have led the way for countless other bands, and are still going strong as Nofx surpasses 25 years and 30 years beckon for Bad Religion.

One of the hordes of bands who owe a lot to these pioneers is Pour Habit, a recent Fat Wreck Chords signing, who opened the Town Hall show. Hailing from Compton, CA, Pour Habit is really unlike most punk bands we see on our shores. Soundwise, the vocalist, an acrobatic African American, reminds me of early Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), and the band is heavy, with souring Strung Out-esque guitar solos and thunderous drumming.

Considering punk is usually about equality, acceptance and (sometimes) inclusiveness, it is a shame the scene isn’t more diverse. Hopefully Pour Habit will break more stereotypes and entice more non-whiteys away from rap and RnB and towards punk.

On to the main show, and the self-proclaimed “Sultans of Slander” took to the stage. Well known as a band who talk a lot between songs Nofx did not stray from convention, with more talk than Muammar al-Gaddafi at the United Nations before they’d even played a note, with Fat Mike quipping the instruments were “props”. Apart from a few exceptions the band played a very different setlist than previous visits, which would have pleased those who had seen them before, but likely disappointed new-comers to the band. Nonetheless the band played with enthusiasm and got nothing less from the packed crowd, with mayhem on the floor and the balconies.

With all the banter and a few rubbish songs performed, Nofx could have thrown in The Decline or a few other crowd pleasers, but with Nofx, fans should understand to expect no more than 70 or so percent.

Bad Religion took up their positions on the stage and got right into Los Angeles is Burning. They sounded flat and unenthusiastic. The single was followed by much debate and a hasty sound check. The crowd got restless but the work was worth it, as the sound was greatly improved as was the attitude of the band. Bad Religion came to please and so wanted the best sound possible. Many songs were made heavier, with the guitars producing the heaviest-sounding palm-muting imaginable, which gave the songs extra fury. Drummer Brooks Wackerman was a marvel, beyond describable. Surprisingly Bad Religion only played one track of their latest album New Maps of Hell (2007), instead playing several from Recipe for Hate, the Grey Race and many from the early 1980s.

Next year should see a new album from the world’s greatest band, and if we’re lucky, having found a shores for the first time in only 2007, Bad Religion will be back. If they do, don’t miss it for the world, as they are one hell of a fine live band.

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Review: Rise Against at the Powerstation 31/03/09 by underground

Previously of the Chicago hardcore underground scene, Rise Against is no longer under the radar. Their latest album, Appeal to Reason, made it all the way to number three on the Billboard 200 in the States, and their latest single Audience of one is played on even the most commercial pop radio station. Punk elite may slate the band as sell outs, but when seen live it is evident that the passion and grit evident in their first album, The Unravelling, remains.

Having seen RA a couple of times before, I knew what to expect before their Powerstation show in Auckland. However, the crowd at the latest show was very different to their previous shows, with many dressed as though they were going clubbing as opposed to a punk show, indictive of how much this band had connected to a different audience of recent years, or even just months. Accordingly, their new songs were greated with cheers from the fashionably attired, whereas the earlier tracks were met with some bewilderment. From their first album, Stainglass and Marble bought the diehard old fans charging forward to scream the song in unison, whereas Re-education, Audience of One and others from Appeal to Reason got the younger fans singing along.

While some bands fail to take their songs from the studio to the stage, RA has no such problem. Vocalist Tim McIlrath’s voice never fails, replicating even the persistant, yet audio, scream of State of the Union as capably as on the original recording. After a lengthy set, the band left the stage, before returning with acoustic guitars to perform the awesome Hero of War, and the crowd favourite Swing Life Away. The volume picks up for three more encore songs, ending on the passionate Prayer of the Refugee, before the band depart and the house lights herald the end of an entertaining Tuesday night.

Sales of the band’s first four albums must have increased after that show, after the punkrock virgins got their first taste of what real live music sounds and looks like.



Strung out/No use for a name news and reviews by underground

In light of the announcement that Californian punk heavyweights No use for a name and Strung out are making their way to New Zealand and Australia in June, I reviewed the bands’ latest releases, Strung out’s “Blackhawks over Los Angeles” and No use for a name’s “The feel good record of the year”. This is a show that punk fans should not miss, as both these bands are amazing live. Continue reading