On Saturday, August 10th, 2019, The Lawrence Arms and Bad Religion graced The Agora Theatre in Cleveland with their presence for the Age of Unreason tour.
The last time I was in the Agora was probably 15 years ago and I don’t really remember who I saw (I’m leaning toward Atreyu). It was essentially a dive bar with more room and a stage. In that time it’s had quite the remodel and they did a fantastic job. Tiered standing room with a bar in the back and an updated balcony that didn’t include stucco falling on your head. I was officially excited to be here.
First up was The Lawrence Arms, a punk band from Chicago. I admit to not being that familiar with their music, really only knowing one or two songs. A sizable part of the crowd was the complete opposite. They were singing along, quite loudly, to damn near every song. Singer/bass player Brendan Kelly did the typical audience pandering consisting of “We just played city ‘X’ and you guys are a much better crowd!” Between songs, he talked a little bit about his thoughts on Ohio’s terrible new abortion law (our own heartbeat bill), but then shared some nice heartfelt stories from the band’s past in Chicago. Overall I’d describe the set as “Meh, it was fine.” Keep in mind though that Bad Religion is one of my favorite bands, so take that opinion with a grain of salt.
Now for the moment, I’ve been waiting for, Bad Religion! There isn’t much for me that has competed with the feeling of getting to photograph one of my favorite bands. One of my favorite memories is getting to see them perform in front of the Washington Monument in DC at the Reason Rally in 2012. The crowd was definitely as pumped as I was. They started out their set playing mostly newer material, but then veered right into hits from the beginning of their career and everything in between. At one point singer Greg Gaffin gauged the audience to see who was seeing the band for the first time and who were veterans. Right after he jumped into the barricade and high fived audience members. Now that the crowd was even more pumped, it was time for audience participation. For their song “Sinister Rouge,” he implored the audience to sing the beginning of the choir part, instructing everyone on how it should go. After singing a few title tracks it was time to say “goodbye.” After about 45 seconds they came back and played two more songs for the encore, with the finale being “American Jesus.” An hour and a half may seem like a long time, but I and the crowd would have easily welcomed double that, provided our voices could handle it from all the top of our lungs sing-alongs we did. This was easily a top 3 set of 2019 for me.
All photos by Tiffany Detzel