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Bad Religion - The Riot Review

by Travis Becker

Every town and every scene preserves a certain amount of folklore concerning "legendary" or "unforgettable" shows that took place in their town. Los Angeles faces no short supply of these tales of mayhem and memory, and a large part of their particular tradition stems from the genesis of the Punk community and the bands within it. While Bad Religion isn't generally regarded as one of the wilder and woollier of those bands, the history of the "riot" at a show at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood in 1990 lurks in the murky consciousness of punks nationwide. This year, L.A. Access video has released that footage on a DVD that memorializes a moment in time for Bad Religion and Punk in general-sort of.

At the risk of sounding effusive, let's pause for a moment and consider some of the flaws of this release, or at least of the limited marketing effort that went into the art on the cover. Starting with the riot footage, if you've come to this DVD for some crazy action and human indecency, return it and pick up a Girls Gone Wild DVD or better yet, save your money and stay home and find Cops on TV (it's on almost 24 hours a day on some channel or other). You get about three minutes worth of some goon announcing that the fire marshal has cancelled the show and twelve more minutes of home movie footage of people milling around outside talking about how "crazy" it was inside with no actual evidence of said craziness, until some post riot damage shots at the end. Perhaps the only redeeming scene consists of the LA fire department hosing down a crowd hanging around on a corner, and even that's obscured by a fire truck parked in front of those people. To be fair, the director, Richard White, admits as much about the "riot" footage. He states in the 8 minute "director's comments" (not commentary and not full length) that, "in my opinion, the riot footage sucks."

Book ending the one song Bad Religion sound check at the actual "riot" show and four or five minutes of broken glass footage is a Bad Religion show from the 1988 Suffer tour, recorded at Cal State Northridge. While not redemption necessarily, this footage is about all that's worth watching on this DVD. It sounds better than you would expect for its age and the technology involved in recording it, and it's a decently long 35 minute sampling of Bad Religion around the time Suffer was released. The Along the Way video easily bests it, however, so if you're going to get one or the other, skip "the Riot" entirely.

Now, I've recommended things before on this site because they represented a moment in time, or were important to the history of Punk or whatever kind of music. Can't do it with "The Riot", though. It's just too tough to imagine a scenario where anyone buying this wouldn't be more or less disappointed. And just to admonish a fellow critic, the jacket of the DVD claims, "…captures Bad Religion's infamous set (and the fracas which followed) in all it's glory." This from Mark Deming of All Movie Guide. In the future, watch the DVD, Mark. The show was cancelled before Bad Religion played that night. The concert footage is all the 88 stuff. Infamous because it didn't happen? And if that's a fracas…well…that was no fracas, at least not what was caught on tape. Maybe that was petty of me, but someone might buy this thing because of those comments.

Maybe I'm desensitized, or maybe this footage is only being released commercially because the guy who shot it thought it was neat that it ended up on ABC news at the time, I don't know. Basically, if you're absolutely obsessed with Bad Religion, and you see this DVD in a bargain bin for a couple of bucks, and you don't need money for beer, and you're sure you don't need to pick up just a little extra beer, think about getting it…if you're sure you don't need beer. In fact, just shoplift the DVD since it's easier to carry and spend the money on beer instead.

CD Info and Links

Bad Religion - The Riot

Label:L.A. Access Video, 2006
Rating:(only because there IS a Bad Religion set on there)

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