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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rise Against at Terminal 5: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Two friends and I saw a concert by the punk/rock bands Rise Against and Bad Religion at Terminal Five, a large event space on the west side of Manhattan.  The name has intrigued me since it opened, since it shares that moniker with the former TWA Flight Center at JFK, a building that was preserved due to its unique architecture but has stood empty ever since an art exhibition in 2004 apparently brought out the worst in people.  The show, which was supposed to last months, was closed after only a few days when guests at the opening littered the iconic building with broken glass, graffiti, and vomit; and someone opened an emergency door leading out to the tarmac, alarming the jittery post-9-11 Port Authority enough to cancel the exhibition for good.

In retrospect the concert venue has none of Eero Saarinen's grace or charm, but the guests -- and there were a lot more of them -- were equally unruly to the point where it was hard to enjoy the concert, keep yourself from getting knocked over, and stay out of a fight all at the same time.  Despite arriving early to claim our places, our little group was pushed aside as people shoved their way towards the stage.  We were jostled by a shirtless, sweaty guy headed back to the mosh pit, who then threatened us for not getting out of his way fast enough.  I wondered if I was just too old to be there, but I go to concerts (including punk concerts) all the time and have never dealt with such a selfish and mean-spirited crowd.

The bands were both great, though. I didn't know much of Bad Religion's music beforehand.  Their name and "crossbuster" logo might make you think they are anti-theists, but in fact they state they use "religion" as a metaphor for blind faith in either institutions, people or ideas.  The energy they put out there makes it easy to understand how they are still drawing crowds after over 30 years.  I have been listening to them ever since.

Rise Against by Marms RTT on Flickr.
Used by Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.
Rise Against was the reason I was there. I have been listening to them for three years, and was very impressed by their recent track "Make It Stop" which talks about the rash of bullying-related suicides among teenage boys this past September.  Unfortunately, my favorite song of theirs, "Paper Wings" did not make the setlist, possibly because guitarist Chris Chasse, who wrote it, is no longer with the band.

Both bands make no bones about their progressive politics and strong belief in social responsibility, which just made the selfish rudeness of the fans we encountered that much more disappointing.