“It’s the altitude up here, isn’t it?” asked Keith Morris as his band, the Circle Jerks, emerged to perform an encore at their Feb. 27 show inside downtown Reno’s Cargo Concert Hall.
The singer made a point of mentioning that the band had originally planned this tour to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the release of its first record, “Group Sex,” but COVID was forced to scrap the original set of dates, and now the tour is actually happening on the 40th anniversary of the second album, “Wild In The Streets.” Throughout the night, the band drew heavily from those two albums.
Early into their set, responding to song titles shouted out by the crowd, Morris looked at the set list onstage consisting of about five pages taped together with titles written across it, and told the audience that there were 33 songs, and to bear with the group. That set list, Morris explained, was divided into blocks, which gave the band a chance to rip through some songs, and then take a break for water and just to catch their breaths. For a group of guys in the 60s, the intentional breaks was both a bit humorous, but also probably what is responsible for the group who got their start in the 1970s to have the longevity to still be touring this long down the road.
The band was raucous, racing through the hardcore punk anthems that they popularized. Onstage, Morris and bass player Zander Schloss interacted with the crowd, trading barbs, but also being genuinely polite toward with the audience. In fact, if one was to have any assumptions of how a group kids playing in a cantankerous band together would age, the Circle Jerks would prove all those assumptions wrong. The group thanked the crowd on multiple occasions for continuing to come to the shows and sing along to the songs.
The group talked about 7 Seconds, the old Reno hardcore band that often hosted and played shows with the Circle Jerks in town decades ago. Ironically, 7 Seconds would be joining them later on this tour but not for the Reno date.
After racing through more than 30 songs, and following that up with an encore, the Circle Jerks put on a display of stunning professionalism – playing the music that packed the pit with kids likely not even born at the time of the band’s first reunion tours, taking breaks onstage to trade banter with those in the crowd, and generally just enjoying themselves 42 years deep into the project.
Detroit hardcore band Negative Approach opened the show with singer John Brannon wearing his permanent scowl throughout the group’s set. The group powered through 40 minutes of seething hardcore that included the group’s most known songs like “Nothing” and “Dead Stop.”
Orange County’s The Adolescents played next, mixing songs from across their output, ranging from 1981’s self-titled “Blue Album” through their most recent record, 2020’s “Russian Spider Dump.” At one point, singer Tony Reflex shouted for the band to stop while he told the audience he didn’t want to warn everyone again to put down their cameras and stop taking flash photos and to enjoy the show – before later apologizing and saying that everyone has issues, including him, before continuing to play. It was a strange series of moments, however the strength of songs like “Amoeba” and “Kids of the Black Hole” is still undeniable, even if the group itself is down to only a single original member.