The Bouncing Souls kicked off a quick, long weekend run of shows in the northeast by playing a sold-out show at the Sinclair in Cambridge’s Harvard Square. It was the Jersey punk rock veterans’ third time to the Bay State this year, but their first time headlining here in a couple years (editor’s note: the Souls supported Frank Turner at a one-off show back in February and the Rancid/Dropkick Murphys “From Boston To Berkeley” tour in August), bringing their devoutly loyal fanbase out in full force.
The quartet came right out of the gate firing on all cylinders, ripping straight into the one-two punch of crowd favorites “Hopeless Romantic” and “The Gold Song.” If you follow our Instagram feed, you may recall that I posted mid-set that it was the third time I’ve seen the Souls this year — I missed the Rancid/DKM show but I was at the Frank Turner gig and I finally made the trek to Jersey for Stoked For The Summer — and it was hands-down the best sounding show of all. Save for a couple technical difficulties primarily during “Satellite,” — see the confused look on frontman Greg Attonito’s face in the picture above — that remained the case throughout. The other two shows were enjoyable, for sure, but there’s something about how an uptempo, melodic four-piece punk band’s sound translates better in the confines of a 500-ish capacity club than in a hockey arena or an outdoor beachfront stage.
It’s tough whittle down a couple of highlights from a set that didn’t really have an low points. Bassist Bryan Kienlen and new-ish drummer George Rebelo play just about as tight and heavy as anybody in the business while guitarist Pete Steinkopf’s trademark Les-Paul-through-Marshall-stack sound somehow plays much bigger than one might expect a single-guitar attack to resonate. Attonito has always been the type of frontman that leaves the mic stand behind and relentlessly paces the bulk of the stage, and the fact that he’s a new parent — his first son was born just five weeks ago — didn’t seem to leave him any worse for the wear. There was a near non-stop parade of crowd surfers throughout the Souls’ hour-plus set (including at least a dozen trips over the barricade by one particular shirtless, luchador-masked patron), which was not a foregone conclusion at the beginning of the evening given that particularly greyish-haired nature of many of the fans — myself included first and foremost — of the band who are rounding the corner on their thirty year anniversary soon. Particular high points included the opening one-two punch, “These Are Quotes From Our Favorite ’80s Movies,” Attonito trying to dig for Boston-area locations in a site-specific version of “East Coast Fuck You,” a spot-on and unexpectedly surprising cover Avail’s “Simple Song,”the goosebump-inducing singalong that “Gone” has become, and a guest appearance on vocals from Street Dogs frontman Mike McColgan on the classic “True Believers.”
California punk veterans TSOL were provided direct support on each of the three dates on this particular jaunt of shows. Much like how I said above that the Bouncing Souls sound translates better in a venue like Sinclair than it does in a larger hockey arena, the squelching-guitar led early 80s hardcore sound that TSOL helped pioneer probably translates better in a smaller club setting without a barricade between the stage and the fans, much like it did when they played here last year at the Middle East. Frontman Jack Grisham has always had one of the more outspoken, dark humored personalities in the scene – look no further than perhaps the band’s biggest hit, the ode to necrophilia that is “Code Blue” – though I will admit that some of his trademark off-color banter sounds not only incredibly dated but, frankly, uncomfortable in the current climate, not unlike rewatching classic stand-up bits by Andrew Dice Clay might. The core of the band still sounded tight, as you’d imagine given that Ron Emoy and Mike Roche have been Grisham’s wingmen for the better part of the nearly four full decades of their existence (editor’s note: total ignorance on my part, but I’m not sure who’s playing drums now that Chip Hanna isn’t involved). The bands fans — and there were more than a few in attendance — totally still dig the classic sound and seemed to warm up as the set went on.
Local favorites Rebuilder kicked off the show in fine fashion. Plans for their first-ever European tour might have gone belly up last spring, but it’s still been a pretty great year for the five-piece; they released a stellar EP, Songs From The Massachusetts Turnpike, on Panic State Records a couple months ago, toured the west coast for the first time, played a bunch of shows back this way with Dead Bars, did a session for Mike Felumlee’s “Live From The Rock Room,” and continued to grow their fanbase by sharing the stage with acts like Dropkick Murphys, Frank Turner, Bombpops, and Red City Radio. The Souls show proved to be a pretty great cap on the year, and in their typical good-natured, tongue-in-cheek fashion, they made sure to include “Le Grand Fromage,” their middle-finger to the Souls’ home state of New Jersey, right smack in the middle of their set.
Head below for the full photo gallery from the evening!