Review and Photos – Circle Jerks at the Commodore Ballroom, July 3 2022
Previously scheduled for March 6, 2022, but postponed after Keith Morris—Circle Jerk’s frontman and former Black Flag founder—tested positive for COVID-19, Circle Jerks finally made it to Vancouver and played on July 3rd at the Commodore Ballroom. After a 15-year break from touring, the Circle Jerks (one of the first and most iconic hardcore punk bands of Southern California in the 1980s) hit the road again to celebrate their delayed 40th anniversary; an event that should have happened in 2020, however as Morris said, ‘we ran into a wall called pandemia.’
With leather jackets and punk rock DIY vests, the hardcore Vancouver scene was present in the lineup to enter the venue. Unfortunately a few fans arrived at the Commodore to find their tickets, purchased way back in 2019, were fraudulent, including a hardcore punk 80’s couple and others who had made their way to Vancouver from other cities, like Manitoba, just for the show.
Inside the venue, 7Seconds warmed up the mosh pit. After the Circle Jerks took the stage, Morris introduced guitarist Greg Hetson (Bad Religion, Redd Kross), bassist Zander Schloss (The Weirdos, Joe Strummer) and recent addition Joey Castillo (The Bronx, Danzig, BL’AST!)—who Morris called ‘our new favourite drummer.’
“Deny Everything” kicked off the 33-song setlist, and as expected, the pit exploded into a jumping, crowd-surfing mosh. Morris asked the audience, ‘everybody doing alright?’, and, unconcerned that a hardcore band was drinking water on stage, clarified that before starting their tour, the Circle Jerks had to become friends again. ‘We all hated each other’, he noted, ‘except for Joey, who happens to love everyone! Other than fucked up politicians.’
As with other Morris bands, Circle Jerks has many songs. The long setlist was played in chunks of eight to nine songs, ‘to let people catch their breath, tune their strings, [and make] sure everyone is enjoying themselves,’ Morris said, before playing “When the Shit Hits the Fan” an anthem of the global economic situation, which ironically was written back in 1983 and remains accurate to the current times.
The night progressed with one broken drum patch and a few split strings. The group played classic songs like “Wild in the Streets” (title track to their second album), “Parade of the Horribles”, and “High Price on Our Heads” (both from 1983’s Golden Shower of Hits). Morris took each break as an opportunity to share memories from the punk rock scene in Southern California and his book, “My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor”. He also announced (as serious as you can take him) that he will be running for president—of the world. ‘King of the World’, he called it and made a promise that he’ll personally get ‘all rat politicians’ heads chopped off.’
With an encore of three songs, Circle Jerks ended the night with “Question Authority,” an anarchist speech released on their second studio album Wild in the Streets in 1982, leaving the audience hyped, psyched and drunk with a punch of anti-systemic melodies. This night was definitely worth the wait.
The band will continue playing greatest hits and classics on their tour on the East Coast finishing in September of this year.
More Circle Jerks at the Commodore Ballroom photos: