Circle Jerks @ Corona Theatre

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Circle Jerks Montreal

After two different tries at this tour during the pandemic, it was finally Montreal’s turn for a night of punk legends at The Corona Theatre. It may not even be your scene, but you’ve probably heard the name before, I’m talking about Circle Jerks. Here to celebrate the 40th-anniversary tour of their debut 1980 album, Group Sex.

Tagging along with them on the Canadian part of the tour was an equally legendary band in the hardcore punk scene, 7 Seconds. Due to more border issues, the trifecta of legendary bands on this tour, Detroit’s Negative Approach had to be replaced. It wasn’t all bad news because the group they got as a replacement was equally qualified for the job, Neighbourhood Watch, a punk band, formed in the late 80s, from Fredericton, New Brunswick.

The atmosphere entering the Corona Theatre was a little calmer than normal. It was a room filled with all generations of punk rockers, from the reformed punk rock parents to the newest breed of punk music enthusiast. Surprisingly it was all ages this time, I’m quite sure a lot of parents decided it would be a little safer to leave the kids at home. But for some, it was chance to bond and introduce their offspring to this punk rock world. Lucky kids, getting to say: ‘My first show was getting to see the Circle Jerks, what was yours?” It will only dawn on them as they get older how truly awesome this night is, and how cool their parents really are.

The balcony of Corona was already full by the time I found a spot on the floor. People were slowly pouring in, most of them choosing to save money and drink outside the venue. With inflation costs it was a wise move,  think eleven to thirteen dollars is just too expensive for a beer – and a vile Budweiser at that. I just can’t justify paying that. Especially because there was so much merch for this tour, you were better off buying something tangible and having a souvenir from the night.

Neighbourhood Watch

There was an initial rush as the first band went straight into the first song, with no introduction. People were scrambling in at this point. Some were not aware of Negative Approach’s cancellation, so they were getting in early thinking it was 7 Seconds on first. Good for a more unknown band such as Neighbourhood Watch,  more exposure. With heavy-hitting vocals and a solid performance, I was impressed by their stage presence. Having been on a sort of hiatus since 1988. The songs were fast and short but I think there was an extra urgency to get through them so they could see more of their idols play. They won over the audience by the end.

7 Seconds

With a pretty quick stage switch-up, the Corona was jam-packed now. The pit area was already in a frenzy of those waiting to expel some energy. Full beers flying through the air, especially toward the stage. Some were already too inebriated to stand, and it was up to others to keep them propped up for the night. It was time for 7 Seconds, playing with two original founding members, on vocals Kevin Seconds, and bassist Steve Youth.

A recognizable three-chord punk sound we’ve all grown up with, and with Kevin’s vocals powering through the first four songs, Here’s Your Warning,  from one of their most famous albums The Crew. Recorded in 1984, it still held its ground live. Going back and forth between albums, from  1986’s New Wind and BYO  hardcore compilation produced by Minor Threat’s Ian Mackaye, Walk Together, Rock Together. The self-titled track that has to be their most popular sing-along song. Encouraging crowd feedback and singing all the Wooaahh moments, which there were a lot of. The pit was in full force with some climbing the barriers to propel themselves to flip into the crowd. Nothing to see here just a typical punk show. Fitting  24 songs in their set they left us a cover of 99 Red Balloons sung in true punk rock fashion.

Circle Jerks

Formed in 1979 in California after singer Keith Morris left Black Flag, Circle Jerks have toured on and off since then, breaking up and reuniting for shows in the area. Never thinking they would make it to the 40th anniversary of an album it was a no-brainer to take it on the road. Keith exclaimed;  “We are celebrating the fact that as old as we are, we are still capable of playing the songs.”  And capable they still are. From the very first note, as they stormed out, you could tell they were hyped to still be playing. At the age of 66, Keith has still got the spark. With his dreads past his knees, he still commands the front of stage graciously. Rocking out by his side  bandmates, guitarist Greg Hetson (Red Cross, Bad Religion) bassist Zander Schloss (Weirdos, Joe Strummer) and drummer Joe Castillo (Queens of the Stone Age, Danzig)

From the first song on the album Group Sex,  Deny Everything, they went on to play a mix of fan favourites. Back Up Against The Wall starts off with an unmistakable guitar riff and an off-beat progression. With a total of fourteen songs running just over 15 minutes long, they had plenty of space to play songs spanning their entire career. Throwing in a block of hits from their third album Golden Shower Of Hits,   When Shit Hits The Fan, Under The Gun and Coup D’Etat was a nice surprise.

In the two years since the tour was announced and postponed, the band celebrated another 40th anniversary of their album Wild In The Streets.  Serving us the title track,  a cover of rock, blues American born singer Garland Jeffreys. The crowd was consuming more and getting quite rowdy at this point. It was only a select few that had started a fight in between songs,  Keith was not about to have that behaviour at his show. He called it out and made sure they got back to some relative peace between punks. Keith stated, “This space is not for violence, that is not ok, not here not ever.” There are always a few bad apples and things that are not acceptable even at a punk show. No wonder we do get a bad reputation. Other than that it was a positive experience with everyone trying to get back back to some kind of normal enjoying shows and being around friends again.

With short fast songs, the night went by pretty quickly considering it was a huge setlist of 33 songs. Leaving the stage we knew it wasn’t the end. With a quick break, they returned to play three extra tunes. With a fitting cover of “I Wanna Destroy You’ from the English rock band from the 1970s, The Soft Boys.  The last song was Question Authority, a politically charged song for the world we live in today. “Question Authority, I’ll pay the price the future belongs to me, this is the time, This is the hour, the worlds our dowry, the glory and the power” – an appropriate message to leave the audience with.

For the older crowd, it was a nostalgic night and for all the newer fans it was a great chance to see something pretty unique. I truly hope it does inspire those who are just getting into music to keep striving,  Circle Jerks, 7 Seconds and Neighborhood Watch demonstrated that anything is possible. Follow your dreams even if it’s playing punk rock with your friends for most of your life.

Review – Samantha Morris

Photos – Kieron Yates

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