Anti-Flag's Political Punk Rocked Hard
Yes, these are the sentiments of Pittsburgh punkers Anti-Flag. If you know anything about the band, these sentiments shouldn't surprise you. The band has made a mark with their strong political views and activism. In fact, The Economy Sucks, Let's Party! tour has teamed up with non-profits Innes Clothing, Greenpeace, and PETA to get the word out about the issues that are nearest and dearest to the hearts of Anti-Flag members.
The night began with a performance from local band Die Ignorant. They were high-energy and really tight. The only thing disappointing about their performance was the crowd. While no one was rude to our homeboys, they just weren't enthusiastic. Frankly, the lack of enthusiasm wasn't warranted, because the band totally delivered. They band even remarked that they merely received golf claps from the steadily growing mass. What the hell, people?
Canadian Cancer Bats and Seattle rockers Aiden took the stage next. Both had obvious metal influences, and both were very place-oriented. They kept mentioning their own roots in their respective cities, calling out to "Arizonans," and talking about their favorite Pittsburgh band. While the Cancer Bats had a pretty warm response, Aiden seemed to be constantly telling the crowd that they weren't really as shitty as everyone thought they were. They were always mentioning how they thought they'd be poorly received by Anti-Flag fans, and that they would prove to you that they didn't suck. When the crowd heckled them, they heckled back, stating, "For those of you . . . who can't wait for us to get off the stage, that's 40 fucking minutes of your life that you'll never get back!"
The dramatics did not stop there, though. Their set-up included a poster on either side of the stage with a pentacle, and a Freemason symbol in the center with an "A" in the middle of that. Their lyrics were dark, and their set included a cover of The Misfits' "Die, Die My Darling." At one point, lead singer wiL Francis even said, "Welcome to the best fucking night of this tour." You have to applaud their enthusiasm and desire to get the crowd involved, but statements like that make you question their sincerity.
All was made well when Anti-Flag took the stage. Sadly, their set was preceded by an announcement that lead singer/guitarist Justin Sane would not be present because he was attending the funeral of his 19-year-old nephew. Bassist/vocalist Chris 2 said that the band had discussed canceling the show but that Sane demanded that they continue.
Their set, which was roughly an hour, was intense, enjoyable, and community-centered. It reminded all of us of why punk had meaning to begin with. Chris 2 said it as articulately as possible when he told us, "This place is special. This is where our solidarity is. It doesn't belong to any current or former president..." He noted that no one could take away from the community the meaning and safety that it creates for itself and its members.
In typical punk fashion, fans jumping on stage for a brief few minutes followed by an intense stage dive was commonplace and, in many cases, didn't even cause a disruption. In one instance, a security guard pulled a rather drunk-looking girl offstage, and the band stopped its song, telling the security guard to bring her back. He noted that while everyone was going to be pissed at her for causing the interruption, there was one way that she could redeem herself. Before he could finish, a crowd of assholish men in the front started chanting, "Show us your tits!" Chris 2 put the kibosh on that. He quickly chimed in, "Wrong fuckin' show. Blink-182 is playing down the street." He then finished by saying that through a righteous stage dive, all would be forgiven. After she did it, the band and crowd cried a unison, "1-2-3-4, fuck off Candace!" and the show continued.
The mosh pit rode strong all night, and as the set came came to a close, the band cried out the anthem You've Gotta Die For Your Government which features the lyrics, "You're gonna die, gonna die, gonna die for your government, die for your country, that's shit!" The encore included a medley of Clash songs, with a few slight alterations, i.e., "I fought the law and I won."
The night gave me a renewed faith in people and in punk. It's so easy to get disillusioned or jaded at a young age. It's also easy to forget that political activism and community are what made punk a powerful movement that revolutionized youth culture. Not only did Anti-Flag deliver in their performance, but they did it with purpose. Exactly as it should be.
Last Night: Anti-Flag at The Clubhouse in Tempe.
Better Than: Any of the arena poser punk shows you could ever attend.
Personal Bias: I am a huge fan of older punk, and their activist leanings rub me the right way.
Random Detail: I saw Anti-Flag's drummer, Pat Thetic, come out to talk to the non-profits that were tabling near the merch area before the show, and I overheard him mention that he lunch ate at Green earlier in the day.
Further Listening/Watching: "This Is The End (For You My Friend)"