Board Aid III With 7 Year Bitch, Sublime, Unwritten Law, and Bad Religion

Despite the slush, Bad Religion gave their all at Board Aid performance.

ATN correspondent, Wendy Hermanson buttoned up her

overcoat and attended the festivities at Board Aid last week at Snow Summit

Mountain Resort in Big Bear. After we defrosted her, this is what she had to

say: From a strictly philanthropic point of view, the concept of Board Aid is

an admirable, well-thought out endeavor. The program targets one of the

highest-risk groups for contracting AIDS--young, alternative-lifestyle thrill

seekers--and used the forum of music and snow boarding, an all-day concert, and

promotional booths to educate this particular audience in a way that reaches

them most effectively. Whether informed through pop-culture-friendly

literature, or by catching an airborne condom tossed by Perry Farrell (the

favored antic of last year's event), the kids get the necessary facts presented

as palatably as a swig of Snapple iced tea.

When considering Board Aid's

musical offerings, however, one finds that a separation of the philanthropy

from the actual concert leaves the audience with somewhat of an odd skeleton.

Yes, a ski slope is a pretty cool venue for a show, and the acoustics

were surprisingly good out in the crisp air. But why a Wednesday? Mid-week

might be fine for college students skipping Philosophy 101, but 9-to-5 slogs or

high scholars might have a bit more trouble ditching responsibilities for the

day. So not surprisingly, this year's Board Aid was sparsely attended, and the

stalwart cool kids who did make it seemed rather unexcelled about the whole

thing. AIDS. Bad Religion. Snow boarding. Whoopee. (And the presence of MTV's

camera crews and VDU Kennedy didn't so much as raise an eyebrow among the Air

Walk crowd.)

Perhaps the problem was the somewhat slushy slope conditions,

because this frosty attitude really cannot be blamed on the lineup for the day,

a highly energetic punk billing full of quips and quirks.

First on was 7

Year Bitch, an all-female outfit who made up for their mostly unoriginal sound

by putting a remarkable shot of hyperness into their early (10:30 AM) time

slot. Sublime, in typical laid back fashion , took their time about arriving

for their set. Upon their (very) late arrival, the band was told that they had

exactly twenty minutes of scheduled time left to perform. Undaunted, Sublime

cranked up the bass and let it fly for...well, for exactly 20 intense minutes.

San Diego's Unwritten Law won hands down honors as the band that actually

moved the chilly audience around a bit. UL's melodic, infectious,

youthful-sounding punk style has grown quite a bit since their 1994 indie

debut, Blue Room. UL has always had a strong live performance, but

lacked a certain weight to their earlier material. It appears that years of

intense practice and national touring has solidified a tentative but highly

promising start. Without losing their speedy urgency, the band has developed a

fuller, edgy, sharp-cornered maturity that should serve them well on their

upcoming second album (first release on a major label).

Saving the biggest

for last, ATN cover boys Bad Religion exploded into the late afternoon at

around 3:30 PM, careless of audience attitude. The set concentrated fairly

equally between old and new material, with songs from the new album, The

Gray Race ("Ten in 2010," and the title track, in particular), shining even

stronger than the older favorites. Brett or no Brett, Bad Religion is in finer

form than ever. Perhaps the fact that singer Greg Graven has recently been

spending time producing the new Unwritten Law record explains both UL's new

stylistic maturity and Bad Religion's eternal youthful kick.