A punk-rock show on St. Paddy’s Day — one of the booziest holidays on the American drinking calendar. What could possibly go wrong?
Thursday night, Revolution Live opened up the outdoor area behind the main building, otherwise known as America’s Backyard, for one of punk and ska’s favorite outfits, Rancid. Opening were a pair of veteran bands: shrieking, hardcore Coldside and Boston-based Street Dogs, led by former Dropkick Murphys vocalist Mike McColgan.
Stepping out to intro music provided by the Ramones’ classic “Blitzkrieg Bop,” it was during the Street Dogs' set that things got a little testy in the crowd, giving us a preview of what was to come. It was a pushy affair early on as by this point, all the Yuenglings and PBRs were starting to kick in. McColgan repeatedly reminded the crowd with several shouts of “Happy Fucking St. Patrick’s Day!” that this was as good an excuse as any to be a teetering trainwreck, work on Friday be damned. During the spirited set, there was a lot of call and response to punch the air like Super Mario, yelling “Hey!” while destroying invisible golden blocks. That was followed by the traditional throw-your-half-empty-drink-into-the-crowd. This was the type of show where one could leave the venue reeking of domestic beer and shitty weed while having partaken in neither.
The age range of the punks in the crowd was staggering. The dusty-haired geezers mingled with their middle-aged counterparts, bald spots forming in the center of tempered Mohawks, and at least one baby punk, sitting atop his dad’s shoulders, wearing headphones and fist-pumping with the best of them. The hard-charging Street Dogs got them all moving, not only with their own stuff but also by paying homage to McColgan’s old band with a rousing cover of the DM’s “Get Up" — which they botched, initially. “This is punk rock,” McColgan said. “Not Radiohead or Pink Floyd. We fuck up.” They quickly regrouped and knocked it out.
As the night wore on, it became more and more dangerous to attempt to carry beers through the throng of whipping elbows and stomping Doc Martens. Although the folks at Revolution Live made good use of the outside venue (really, they should have all of their rowdier shows out there), including the second-floor balcony, for some people, it just wasn’t enough room. A brawl broke out on the aforementioned balcony, near the spotlight, that sucked in a number of fans and security flying in from all directions.
Speaking of security, they were busy all night. There was one guy in particular who kept them on their toes. He was a less-handsome Tom Hiddleston who repeatedly crowd-surfed from rear to front, over and over again, oblivious to the irritated expressions of the men tasked with dragging his body back to the ground. By the time Rancid took the stage, the majority in attendance were properly sauced, a few stood close together for support like human houses of cards, and there was at least one crying-drunk-chick alert. Nonetheless, everyone was revved up, the room a powder keg primed to explode. Despite the doors opening at 7 p.m., Rancid didn’t appear until 10; still, some people had waited 20 years to see them, so what was another three hours?
As soon as those first furious notes hit, Fort Lauderdale lost it, and multiple mosh pits erupted like a volcanic chain reaction. Notably, songs from Rancid’s most popular record, 1995’s …And Out Come the Wolves, triggered the most raucous responses, as evidenced by some of the opening tracks of the band's set: “Roots Radical,” "Journey to the End of the East Bay," and “Maxwell Murder,” where strangers were literally climbing onto the backs of each other in excitement.
Frontman Tim Armstrong, who these days looks like a cross between Gimli of the Lord of the Rings films and a leather-loving Rick Rubin, wore sunglasses throughout and was in absolutely fine form on co-lead vocals and guitar. The same could be said for the band’s cofounder and fellow singer, Lars Frederiksen, who spoke to the crowd a few times about Rancid’s history with South Florida and its upcoming cruise with Flogging Molly.
Rancid is the sort of show where all inhibitions disappear — the same way some audience members lost their shirts. With the intensity of the music ripping through the crowd, it was incredibly difficult for anyone to record the event with photos or video, a staple of concerts these days. It forced everyone to live in the moment. Audience members were more alive in those few hours than they had been all week, guaranteed.
Rancid encouraged this lack of reserve, with Frederiksen shouting, “You got your dancing shoes on?” before launching into the ska classic “Old Friend.” With nearly every song being a short, anthemic powerhouse capable of starting either a riot or a revolution, the concert became the rock 'n' roll equivalent of Fight Club. For one night, the bored and the disenfranchised found an extremely physical outlet to alleviate the horrors of their everyday, mundane existence.
Of course, there’s always that one guy who takes it too far. One bro managed to crash the stage, seize Frederiksen’s mic, and sing one line of the chorus Rancid was in the middle of before security wrestled him away in what was clearly a painful chokehold. To its credit, Rancid didn’t flinch and just kept on rocking. The final few songs included “Olympia, WA.,” “Time Bomb,” and the obvious closer, “Ruby Soho,” a trio of singles that fostered a love affair with punk and ska for an entire generation. That adoration permeated the set, as there were no fights during Rancid’s time onstage, only good vibes. The headliners calmed the souls of those wild beasts while still allowing them to rage and skank in their natural punk habitat. Yes, there were grown men puking on their own feet, and yes, there was one massive, sweaty man who looked like the human version of Bebop from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with a sloppy, green Mohawk, but you should’ve seen them dance. They were like midnight disco queens unaware of and indifferent to who was watching.