Summer Nationals Tour brings Punk Rock to Sleep Train Amphitheatre Chula Vista, CA 8-30-14

Labor Day weekend is usually the last hurrah of the summer for most, and what better way to party then with some of the most recognized names in Punk Rock.  On Sunday August 30th, Epitaph Records-sponsored Summer Nationals Tour 2014 featuring The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise, The Vandals, and Stiff Little Fingers came to Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA. High energy performances from legendary Southern California bands playing out at home ensured that fans would be in for a night to remember. There were those who came for the headliner, the opener, and everything in between. Most people were prepared to relish all five of these highly respected and adored Punk Rock icons.

Leading things off were Northern Ireland’s Stiff Little Fingers.  On the Punk scene for almost four decades, the band has left their irrevocable mark on any who cross their path.  Having sustained a variety of line-up changes over the years, guitarist/vocalist Jake Burns and bassist Ali McMordie remain the foundation of the band with long-time members guitarist Ian McCallum along with drummer Steve Grantley.  Opening with “Suspect Device” and “Wasted Life,” their raw style sounded better than ever and had everyone rocking.  The classic Euro-Punk vocals of Burns matched with the rebellious guitar work shown by this band are legends of Punk.  Mixing in other great songs such as “At The Edge,” “Nobody’s Hero,” and closing with “Alternative Ulster,” Stiff Little Fingers put on a great show.  Fortunately for North Americans, there was an opportunity to see the band play a full set as they headlined select dates in between Summers National Tour as they support their tenth studio album No Going Back.  

Up next was none other than The Vandals. Formed out of Huntington Beach, California in the 1980’s, the band has certainly made a name for themselves over the course of ten studio albums and extensive touring.  With Joe Escalanta on bass, Dave Quackenbush on vocals, Warren Fitzgerlad on guitars, and Josh Freese on drums, the band took the stage bursting like a firecracker.  Opening with “It’s a Fact,” they were a Punk Rock comedy team, entertaining the crowd with their unbelievable stage energy and incorrigible antics. The quartet had plenty of jokes in between songs as they gleefully plowed through such classics as “Live Fast Diarrhea,” “Anarchy Burger (Hold the Government),” “Urban Struggle,” and “I’ve Got An Ape Drape.”  Having been ten years since their last studio album, Hollywood Potato Chip, fans patiently wait for the chance to hear new material in the future.

The crowd was completely stoked and having a blast when Pennywise took the stage. Equal parts intensity, humor, and razor sharp execution, the Punk Rock institution never disappoints. Playing in their home state, the Hermosa Beach natives fed off the energy of the crowd, filling the oncoming night at the outdoor venue with their unparalleled energy. Going back to the beginning, they launched their set like a rocket with the visceral Pennywise airing out “Rules,” “My Own Country,” and “Same Old Story” before paying tribute to legends with a great rendition of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Things remained solid as circle pits greeted classic song “Fuck Authority.”  A set staple, the unforgettable “Bro Hymn” always resonates with the So Cal crowd, as it became the rallying song for the 2007 Anaheim Mighty Ducks Stanley Cup victory.  Fans certainly enjoyed their set and are glad to have a new Pennywise album as well with the release of Yesterdays back in July marking the first with vocalist Jim Lindberg since his departure in 2009.

Bad Religion, in over thirty years of existence, have transcended the bounds of mere Punk Rock to spread their message of reason, intellect, and rueful humor to masses of humanity who are infinitely better for having loved them. The ballsy, timeless backdrop of the big Christian cross with the line through it – known in B.R. circles as the Crossbuster – hung like an omen of truth behind the veteran troupe as they took the stage to roars of adulation. Bad Religion shows are often quite transforming for fans, usually winding up as the ultimate live highlight they could possibly experience. Age and time has done nothing to change this thirty plus year trend. “Fuck Armageddon….This is Hell” started it off old school, before the band played “Supersonic” and “Los Angeles Is Burning,” the 21st century tracks standing proudly alongside the old opening classic. Pits opened up for such crowd movers as “21st Century Digital Boy” and “Infected.”

Greg Graffin was in command, as he always is, his professor’s voice and dry delivery translating into a frantic crowd response that is never less than totally exciting. The crowd was treated to a foursome of songs off of 1988’s Suffer in the form of “You Are (The Government),” “1000 More Fools,” “How Much Is Enough,” and “Best For You.” New tune “Fuck You” proved to be an anthem every bit as meaningful as the old staples. Bad Religion closed with the 1993 gem “American Jesus,” exiting in a cloud of crowd sweat, marijuana smoke, and complete and utter satisfaction.

At long last it was time for the headliners The Offspring to take the stage.  Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their landmark album Smash, the band was scheduled to play all fourteen tracks in their entirety to the excitement of fans.  With their classic line-up consisting of  Dexter Holland (guitar/vocals), Greg K. (Bass), Noodles (guitar), and newest member since 2007 Pete Parada (drums), the buzz flowing through the evening air was electric as fans cheered for the band to begin as the intro to Smash, “Time To Relax” played.

A shock of stiff blond hair adorned the head of Holland as the band commanded the stage. The faces in the crowd spanned three generations, as the Huntington Beach natives got their start way back in 1984. The moshing and sing-a-longs were in full effect, no matter how young or old the onlookers were, as The Offspring sounded just as good playing Smash with passion highlighted by songs “Bad Habit”, “Come Out and Play,” “Killyboy Powerhead,” and “Self Esteem” before a brief intermission.

Continuing on the second portion of the set after everyone took in hearing all their favorite Smash songs, The Offspring jumped into “Americana”.   Keeping the crowd moving and everyone singing along Holland belted out his ever-distinct voice strongly as Greg K., Noodles, and Parada gave each tune a loud ruckus adrenaline rush.  Playing on with more adored songs from 1998’s Americana came “Staring At The Sun,” “Gone Away,” “Why Don’t You Get A Job,” and “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy).”

Closing the night out with “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” a true fan favorite, The Offspring showed they are able to kick copious amounts of ass in 2014 just like when Smash came out in 1994. All in all, the fans got more than their money’s worth on this Sunday night. A buzz of satisfaction permeated the crowd as they moved to the exits, content that the pinnacle of west coast punk rock had been reached.

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