The last weekend in July marked the maiden voyage of a new New England-based punk rock experience. It’s called the Roadblock Festival, and it took place outside at Bold Point Park in East Providence, which serves as Rhode Island’s largest outdoor concert venue and comes complete with views of the Narragansett Bay and the sunset over the state capital. It’s not the best run venue, but my personal feelings about staff communication deficiencies aside, it’s a pretty picturesque place to take in a punk rock show when the weather cooperates. This particular show featured a diverse lineup, food trucks, wrestling, and a late-arriving crowd that allowed show-goers the opportunity to spread out and seek a little shade from the midsummer sun.
For traffic and parking-related reasons, we arrived shortly after our beloved Rebuilder took the stage. They band were playing with a bit of a retooled lineup; with co-frontman Craig Stanton out of town, Sal Ellington and bassist Daniel Carswell were joined by regular drummer Brandon Phillips on guitar and vocals and by Choke Up’s Harley Cox filling in on drums. It was a high-energy, well-received set that was certainly worthy of taking place later in the afternoon. They were followed out of the chute by a back-to-back pair of legendary acts: Cro-Mags and HR from Bad Brains. Technically speaking, the former was “Cro-Mags JM,” the John Joseph/AJ Novello version of the influential NYHC band. HR performed a half-hour set of punk-infused reggae songs with a band that was heavy and airtight in spite of a relative few shows under their collective belts.
Next up came Portland, Maine’s Roseview, a five piece post hardcore band who are, admittedly, not my speed. A band that are my speed, The Old Firm Casuals, came next. Making their first and only New England appearance as a four-piece – lead guitarist Gabe Gavriloff joined in the four-ish years since OFC were last here, the quartet overcame a handful of bizarre, REd Hot Chili Peppers-infused technical difficulties to buzzsaw a way through forty minute set of rock solid street punk rock-and roll. In one of the more interesting musical segues of the day, they were followed by Charly Bliss, the four-piece New York-based band who were wrapping up two successful months of world touring in support of their latest synth-pop-infused release, Young Enough.
The Menzingers played the event’s penultimate set as the sunlit portion of the day’s festivities came to an end. By that point, the bulk of the late-arriving crowd had finally descended upon Bold Point Park, and Philadelphia’s beloved sons were met with a barrage of crowd-surfers and thrown beer cans from the opening tones of their hour-long set. Bad Religion closed out the night in flawless fashion. I’m frequently left in awe that a band that’s been around literally as long as a band as I have as a person (editor’s note: I turn 40 next month) can sound just as vital and important and energetic as ever. This is punk rock, not the Beach Boys or a Grateful Dead cover band (both of whom would occupy this stage in the next week), yet on their recently-released Age Of Unreason full length, and more importantly in their live show, Bad Religion keep showing the rest of us how it’s done.