I WAS THERE: Rancid/Sick of It All @ Irving Plaza, 8.13.08

Photos by Andrew Parks

“Rancid?” asked a close friend, clearly confused. “What are you, 12?”

Um, no. self-titled‘s staff is more of the mid-20’s, early-30’s sort, which means we were all teenagers around the time of Rancid‘s one hit record, 1995’s …And Out Come the Wolves. Remember that one? “Time Bomb”? “Destination unknown/ruby ruby ruby Soho”? Of course you do.

We’re not here to revisit those gutter punk jams, however. Rancid’s true shining moment came three years later, with the eclectic, dare-we-say-epic Life Won’t Wait, the closest the quartet’s ever come to fulfilling its Clash-caliber dreams. Or as Rolling Stone put it in a four-star review, “More than anything else, Life Won’t Wait evokes the Clash’s Sandinista!–but for all the right reasons. It’s an exhilarating punk-rock record, one that delves into ska, blues and reggae. In mimicking the Clash circa 1980, Rancid have found the perfect template for growing up as a punk band.”

Too bad they regressed a bit after a raucous self-titled 2000 LP, as side projects (The Transplants, Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards) and Tim Armstrong’s on-again/off-again drug abuse derailed Rancid for many months at a time.

That was then and this is now, the first night of an impressive sold-out residency at New York’s Irving Plaza. Rather than ruin any surprises for the Rancid shows to come, we’ll simply say the boys are in fine form, clearly happy to be playing together once again and finding fans both old (many faded and torn Rancid shirts were on display tonight) and new (pockets of spiky-haired teens too young to remember any of Rancid’s records, really). Apparently, Rancid is one of those rights-of-passage bands you have to hear to be considered ‘punk’ these days.

Sorry, Johnny Lydon. The kids don’t really need you anymore. Sick of It All, on the other hand, well, you reminded us why hardcore was once one of the most vital–and testosterone-addled–subcultures around. Hurray for NYC Hardcore! Alright, we need to go lie down now.