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Rancid, Dropkick Murphys And The Bronx At The Shrine (Outdoors), Saturday, October 16th, 2021

Rancid
Rancid

Saturday’s show at the Shrine was like a mini Punk Rock Bowling: Rancid was headlining and the last time I saw the California punk band, they precisely were headlining a day of Punk Rock Bowling. It was a perfect late summer night with temperatures still in the 80s, and the Shrine had decided to hold the show outdoors, a much better option than their indoors exposition hall, which always looks and sounds like a dreadful defunct railroad station.

Since the Bronx (the opening band) had graciously offered me a photo pass, I had two possibilities: stand in the pit for three songs and watch the rest of the show in the back of the crowd, or hold the rail and I watch the entire show front row at my own risk while taking pictures. Guess what I did? As usual, I arrived early, found the best spot at the rail, and never left! It was a fun ride, a bit dangerous at one point – I cannot count how many people escaped the mayhem over my head – but I didn’t regret my choice. I almost got into a fight with a guy who was pretending to protect me against the raging crowd when he was in fact adding to the chaos behind me: “Why are you a dick with me when I am protecting you?” he screamed in my right ear. “You are not protecting me and I don’t need your protection,” I replied. “If I leave people are gonna push you,” he said. “well, please leave, this is not my first show” I replied. I was much better without his sweating body bumping against me. A punk show would not be a punk show without a fight, but I must say most people were very nice. However, there is always one drunk asshole… one or two.

 Three bands were performing: the Bronx, Dropkick Murphys, and finally Rancid. If I could still breathe normally and have some vital space during the Bronx’s set, things escalated rapidly doing the second act and of course during Rancid’s set, to the point that it was difficult to move arm or foot. People got really rowdy and excited, and I asked myself a few times during the show “Why I’m still doing this? am I that crazy?” Probably, but I got good photos.

The Bronx gave a very muscular and powerful performance. They played their melodic straightforward punk rock with a rare efficiency, pounding drums, loud guitars, and frontman Matt Caughthran’s blood-thirsty scream. However, it was also extremely upbeat, it was a happy party, a head-banging party from start to finish, a mosh pit party embraced by people who had waited very long to get back in action since the beginning of the pandemic. Caughthran sang with that grin on his face that transformed into a big smile when he managed to jump in the air. He couldn’t get enough of the crowd: “There’s no time like a present baby!” he kept saying, and boy did these people enjoy the present. The band played their most popular songs from their different albums (almost all named “The Bronx”) with restless energy, virtuosity, and an appetite for life and destruction. The Bronx played fast and loud, the music was executed with a fist in the air, a joyful rage, and a rush of adrenaline, the next number faster than the previous one. The crowd was simply happy and responding to the explosive performance with joy, beer spilled over our heads and a lot of sing-alongs. 

The loud mix was nevertheless dominated by Caughthran’s ferocious roar: I still don’t understand how somebody can hold this top-of-the-lung powerhouse for 45 minutes and still have a voice the next morning, but this says a lot about his powerful instrument. I saw the same band pre-pandemic but under their alter-ego outfit, Mariachi El Bronx, which gives another outlet to his multi-dimensional vocals. 

It was the last date of their tour with Rancid, and they were encouraging the crowd to move more on every occasion. “This is not a rock and roll show, this is a punk rock show… let’s go let’s go!” Caughthran repeated while wearing a Ramones T shirt. The set was a cathartic liberation drenched in sweat and screams, a sort of gift to these people, after almost two years of confinement. Caughthran is right, we have to enjoy the present much more than we do.

On stage, Dropkick Murphys sometimes looked like a Broadway show: there were many musicians on stage at the same time, and the entire ensemble seemed to follow a very well-studied choreography! Every instrument you can imagine was played on stage from guitar to drums, bass, flute, keys, accordion, banjo, mandolin, and even bagpipes of course because we are talking about a Celtic punk band from Massachusetts. 

It’s easy to understand why a band like them would play with Rancid: they have the same energy and ethic… plus their first five albums were released via Tim Armstrong’s Hellcat Records. Once again, it was a high-energy set with two frontmen running into each other constantly, and alternatively singing a part of a song, but mostly singing together. There was a lot in the mix, many instruments and many voices, like an Irish party in constant movement, while the music, inspired by Irish ballads, had obviously a strong punk flavor. Ken Casey and Al Barr were doing “character” voices,  interpreting the lyrics with a comedic vibe, and If some songs sounded like “pirate songs” – especially those with accordions and raucous vocals – there were some ferocious punk numbers that triggered a mad mosh pit behind my back (“Citizen C.I.A.”). The band took the stage with “The Boys Are Back” and between “Queen of Suffolk County,” “Rose Tattoo” and a few covers (like the Crickets’ “I Fought The Law”) they made a strong connection with the crowd where everyone was screaming the lyrics of the songs with their Doc Martens tapping against the ground as if it was a Riverdance revival. The result was pleasant and very entertaining, there surely was not a dull moment. 

Like Rancid, Dropkick Murphys have been around for a long time, over 20 years, and if they have achieved international recognition, they are still loyal to their blue-collar working-class ethic and humble roots. They even mentioned a charity they were raising money for and sounded like great people with firing energy, mixing old-school style into their Celtic/rock/punk/Irish/folk fusion. 

The crowd was already very pumped up, to say the least, the front row has had their ribs crushed against the rail for more than an hour, but people were expecting even more chaos with a blend of excitation and apprehension. A security guard even came to me to tell me to be careful as I was just standing in the spot where people crowd surf to the pit. How nice of him!

Rancid is an institution in So-Cal, they have been around since 1991, and it’s fascinating to see that they still attract a crowd of all ages. A 70-year-old man was standing behind me, while a young woman, in her early 20s next to me was singing all the songs. There was the expected Mohawk-Doc Martens crowd, but the audience was honestly very diverse. That’s certainly a sign of their songs’ longevity and catchiness: If not all of them are as catchy as “Ruby Soho,” the famous earworm that earns them a mass appeal reputation, the hooks are strong and repeatedly delivered with fervor and great conviction. 

Rancid has released 9 albums — during the show they also announced a new one coming very soon — and they brushed their catalog while announcing the dates of the songs…”1995,” “1994”… This is a band that digs deep in time to put together a setlist that covers years of music while playing the hits. The songs were quick and there were hardly any breaks in between… and the sing-along? It was as powerful as ever, even louder, although, around me, people could hardly sing as they were just trying to stay afloat

Many times during the show, Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen stirred up the already rowdy crowd, inviting everyone to activate the mosh pit, a Californian institution… Was that necessary when there was already so much pushing and crowd surfing? Several people passed over my head and I was not able to film one of their most famous tunes with my phone for more than a few seconds, as I was interrupted by a crowd surfer each time I tried.

Tim Brennan from the Dropkick Murphys came on stage to add some keys for a song, bringing some slight change in Rancid’s punk rock set spiced up with a bit of ska tempo here and there. As usual, heavy bearded Tim Armstrong was holding his guitar lower than his knees and was rotating with it in a punk waltz… If the action was not as choreographed as during Dropkick Murphy’s set, Rancid is still playing raw and sincere boot-stomping punk rock with a message: “We are strongly anti-racist and anti-fascist” stated Lars at one point of the show. Listening to the loud cheering noise coming from the crowd, the message was well received 

Setlist
Maxwell Murder
Olympia WA.
Roots radicals
Journey to the End of the East Bay
Radio
The 11th Hour
St. Mary
East Bay Night
Listed MIA
Ghost of a Chance
Telegraph Avenue
Hooligans
Old Friend
The Wars End
Something in the World Today
Side Kick
Salvation
Gunshot
Fall Back Down
Avenues & Alleyways
Rejected
Time Bomb
Ruby Soho

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