On Thursday night, Oct. 20, two political powerhouse punk bands shared the stage at In The Venue in downtown Salt Lake City. Opening the show was Dave Hause, bringing his folk-rock/Americana sound to the stage. His mellow, heartfelt songs were well-received by the crowd, and he was even joined on stage by Bad Religion bass player Jay Bentley and Against Me! drummer Atom Willard, who provided the rhythm section for the last few songs of the set.
Following a short break between sets, Florida’s Against Me! took the stage, bringing their political and gender identity–based songs at full volume. For less experienced Against Me! listeners, some of the lyrics could be quite shocking and offensive. “You want them to see you like they see every other girl / They just see a faggot / They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick” are not necessarily lyrics you’re going to hear repeated around the dinner table. But then, when your singer-songwriter is a transgender woman who utilized her songs to publicly come out to the world a few years back, the lyrics take a different light and meaning. The packed room sang along with Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace throughout the relentless, heart-pounding set, but the wait between sets felt like an eternity.
As the energy in the room grew, people started packing in tightly, trying to be as close to the stage as possible. Los Angeles punk legends Bad Religion were about to go on. They opened with the political anthem “You Are (The Government),” and after a couple songs, lead singer Greg Graffin explained to the crowd that the reason for their going on tour (at this specific time, during this year) was because of the current political climate and the ominous presidential election coming in November. Graffin and bass player Jay Bentley changed some lyrics of the songs to include Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the bedlam that has been the presidential debates. Songs whose lyrics were written 20 years ago have more relevance now than they ever have. Do the members of Bad Religion have clairvoyant powers? Against Me(!)’s Laura Jane Grace joined them onstage to provide the additional vocals on the song “Television,” resulting in many cheers from their fans. Almost 90 minutes of pure adrenaline wrapped up with two of their most famous songs: “American Jesus” and “Fuck Armageddon, this is Hell.” Bad Religion’s members showed an endurance unfathomable—over 30 years of high energy shows, and they still tore the roof off.