In support of their sixteenth studio release True North, melodic punk legends Bad Religion invaded Philadelphia’s Electric Factory as part of their “True North American Tour.” Opening for them were The Bronx (who replaced Against Me!) & The Polar Bear Club.
In the past, I have been to the Electric Factory many times as a fan. On this particular night, I was on assignment to cover the show. My good friend and house photographer, Liana Marie was also with me. The first thing that surprised me was the size of the stage. I had never shot a stage that high before (probably 6′). Most venues I shoot are about waist-level, so that was surprising.
Starting things off was The Polar Bear Club. Most of the crowd didn’t seem too familiar with these guys, but it didn’t take long before fists were thrown into the air and the audience begin to sing along to the band’s chorus. Having seen these guys many times in the past, I was excited to photograph them. After seeing their setlist (7 songs), I realized they weren’t going be playing long. The band’s energetic set mostly stuck to 2011’s Clash Battle Guild Pride while still touching on some of their older materials.
The lighting on them was fantastic with plenty front of house lights on the band and occasional red and blue washes. What presented itself as a challenge was trying to capture the band’s frontman Jimmy Stadt. Like an ADHD child who forgot to take his Ritalin, Jimmy jumps all over the stage. Part of his enthusiasm is what draws the audience in as well as his heartfelt lyrics. If their job as an opener was the excite the crowd, then by all means, they did their job.
After a long half-decade away, The Bronx we all grew up loving returned for this tour. With a new album (IV) in hand, the band shed their mariachi alter-egos and gives listeners a whole new set of anthems to sing along to. Having replaced Against Me! on tour, the band was a welcome addition. During the band’s half-hour / twelve-song set (half from the new album and two from their each of their previous releases) frontman, Matt Caughthran finished the last two standing among the audience.
Their lighting treatment was all over the map. With a palette of reds, blues and greens, the washes of light proved to be a formidable challenge. Though the consistent spotlight on their Matt did help with the autofocus, it overexposed parts of him.
Finally, the night’s headliner wrapped things up. Bad Religion, a band with an over thirty-plus year legacy sounded tighter than ever. Their set opened with “Past Is Dead,” off of their new ‘True North’ release. This was not easy to shoot. The lights (there wasn’t much to speak of) were a wash of blue. Knowing the vast majority of their catalog by heart, I assumed that during key points of their songs, there would be lighting cues. Well, I guessed wrong. Their first song was hardly shootable as were the following two (which happens to the only three songs I was allowed to photograph.) Even with that setback for me, the band still put on a great show for the audience.
Overall, the evening wasn’t so bad. I’m glad that I got to photograph The Polar Bear Club once again as they always bring an amazing amount energy to every performance. The last time I saw The Bronx was at Warped Tour ’08 so to be able to see them again reinvigorated was exciting. Having been a Bad Religion fan since the 90’s, I was actually nervous to shoot them. I have seen them live numerous times over the years but to have the privilege to photograph them was something ‘next level.’ Though marred by terrible lighting, like the band, I made the best of it.
This post was written by:
Henry Chung – When Henry’s not busy updating this page and speaking in third person,he’s busy shooting and editing pictures from concerts and designing logos for bands.