Good Riddance. Marquis Theatre. 01.25.18
May 5th, 1994. I am 17 years old and sitting in my ’84 Honda Accord in a dirt parking lot at the World Beat Center in San Diego. It’s 6pm and there are no other cars in the lot. I am early. Ridiculously early. A month has passed since leaving my hometown in Northern California. San Diego still seems like a big city to me. I am alone, out of my element, and punctual. I am also extremely excited to witness my first ‘club’ show. Not an amphitheater, arena, or stadium; just a room, a stage, and musicians. Live, Vic Chesnutt, and Angelfish are going to perform in front of a few hundred people and I am going to be there.
Every minute of that night exceeded my expectations, especially when the staff let me in for soundcheck because they felt bad I was waiting outside so long. That was how I met Vic Chesnutt, which is something I will never forget. That was also the night I formed an addictive relationship with live music.
A few months later, I found a second home at the new SOMA location on Metro Street. By that time, I was a seasoned vet. My Honda Accord was covered with punk rock stickers, I wasn’t showing up to shows early, and I usually had a friend or two (or a sister) who would attend with me. I saw over forty shows at SOMA between ’94 – ’96.
Fugazi, Ramones, Rancid, Circle Jerks, Sublime, Bad Religion, Face to Face, Tool, Faith No More, Anthrax, NOFX, Deftones, No Doubt, Bouncing Souls, Corrosion of Conformity, and even Smashing Pumpkins; as well as all the amazing local bands like Buck-O-Nine, Lucy’s Fur Coat, Unwritten Law, and Sprung Monkey.
One of the most memorable shows from that time was the Fat Wreck Chords Tour in January of ‘95.
Lagwagon, No Use for a Name, Strung Out, Good Riddance, and Tilt. All on the same bill!
Good Riddance was the surprise performance that night. Their debut LP, For God and Country, was still a month from being released, yet they turned that concrete room into a madhouse. I went on to see them three more times that year; once in Berkley with Lagwagon, once at the very first Warped Tour in Irvine, and back at SOMA as openers for Unwritten Law. They became one of my favorite bands and I was rarely seen without a Good Riddance hat on my head.
And then, for some crazy reason, I never saw them again. Four times in a single year and then done…
Until last night.
23 years after that set at SOMA, I found myself smashed against the stage, with a pit swirling at my back, trying to help the surfers float while dodging the divers. Russ Rankin was keeping himself steady by holding onto my shoulder, while Chuck Platt was threatening to impale me with the head of his bass. Those guys were literally behind me as they hovered over the audience. It was absolute chaos and I should have been thinking “I’m way too old for this kind shit,” but the adrenaline drowned out all critical thought. I was having way too much fun to quit…and the guys on stage had a good decade on me, so fuck it…if they could do it, I could do it too!
Joy Subtraction opened the show with a ton of energy, self-deprecating humor, and some decent songs. Denver’s own Allout Helter were second on the bill. Full of political fervor, they brandished a sharp metal-edge that cut through their melodic punk like the best of the Fat Wreck Chords bands that came before them. Touching on local issues such as the police overreacting to the Occupy movement, the growing homeless population in our city, and gentrification leading to the closure of art spaces like Rhinoceropolis, they made a connection with the Denver crowd; at least half of which were already fans.
Good Riddance took the stage around 10:15pm. Battle music played over the PA as Luke Pabich, Sean Sellers, and Chuck made their way out. Russ came last, still looking like the twenty-something punk I’d seen in San Diego, and immediately gave the crowd a verbal lashing with “Letters Home”. The floor became a slightly dysfunctional pit before the first verse left his mouth, and I found myself at the stage, gripping an amp to stand standing, within the first thirty seconds of the show. And that’s where I could be found for the entirety of the hour-long set.
It is hard to write about a show from that viewpoint. I don’t know if the sound was good, because I was too close to hear the full mix. I don’t know what the crowd was like, because they were at my back. I can tell you what the setlist was, because it was taped to the stage in front of me, but they didn’t stick to it 100%. I can’t write much about the show itself, but I can write about what I experienced in the tiny spaced I occupied.
Russ didn’t smile through the entire set. He was in the zone and fully committed to being the ‘pissed off at the world’ punk rocker. He was very appreciative of those who sang along with the song; even commenting at one point that it was nice to hear the crowd sing the new songs as well as the old. The mic was passed to those alongside me a few times, and the multi-generational crowd did not hesitate when taking over vocal duties.
Chuck acted as comedy relief. Don’t get me wrong, he is a monster bass player, but the smile never left his face, even when he had sound problems and had to add to his already crazy amp stack. “Ever heard of Manowar?” he joked at one point. Never short on personality, Chuck made it seem like he was having more fun than anyone else. At one point he sliced his hand on a string, then he came right over to show me what had happened, as if we were old friends. He made fun of the way I clapped after one song, then visually called me out for not singing along with one of the newer tracks I didn’t recognize. Besides having to duck every few minutes, in order to avoid getting clobbered by his bass, watching Chuck was a highlight of the night.
Luke was on the other side of the stage, and out of view for me the majority of the show. At one point I think he had to stop a fight (during “Without Anger” of all songs; the irony of which wasn’t lost on Russ), but again, I couldn’t see what was happening.
Sean Sellers was the one face I didn’t recognize, because he replaced Rich McDermott in ’96…a year after I’d last seen the band.
The five or six people in the crowd I had interaction with were awesome. There was the guy who knew every word to every song. I would catch glimpses of photos of his babies on his phone when he’d take it out to snap a photo or two. There were the young kids on the other side of me, who worked up the courage to stage dive and crowd surf by mid-set. There were the two girls who were as aggressive as any of the guys when a song moved them to thrash around like maniacs, but they were also just as helpful when someone went down. I almost slipped at one point and it was one of those girls who caught my arm and steadied me.
The set contained songs from every album, and not a single one fell on deaf ears, but it was the God and Country and Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion tracks that really got me going. “United Cigar”, “A Credit to His Gender”, “Last Believer”, “Mother Superior”, and “Flies First Class” were hands-down my favorite performances of the night. And I might be biased, but I feel like everyone in my space went a little crazier for those selections as well.
The night ended, appropriately, with “Shadows of Defeat” (“Whoa! it’s time to go!”). Russ gave a quick speech about how we can all change the world and then thanked the crowd for coming. Chuck and Luke shook hands, gave fist bumps, and then they were gone as well. But the adrenaline pumping through me wasn’t ready for the night to end. It had me walking back down to Star Bar for a few more drinks before heading home. Luckily, my willpower kicked in and I booked an Uber instead. I might have felt 18 again, but the 40-year-old reality was waiting for me in the morning and it was time to get some sleep.
I am 25 years into attending shows at this point and I don’t think I’ll ever beat the run I had at SOMA as a teenager. Hitting a couple dozen Red Rocks shows a year is my new thing, and I love my time up there, but there was just something about being a sweaty mess at a punk rock show in a dirty, featureless room. There was just something about being young and angry, but also carefree. Good Riddance brought me back there, if only for an hour, last night. And for that, I thank them.
Heresy, Hypocrisy, and Revenge
Credit To His Gender
Weight of the World
Running on Fumes
Shit Talking Capitalist
Think of Me
One for the Braves
Flies First Class
Shadow of Defeat
* based on printed setlist, there were a couple changes