When I was fifteen years old I had fallen in love with Die for the Government. I mean, it was an anthem for young punk rock kids at that time. It is loud, angry, passionate, sarcastic, and catchy as fuck. But it has a message, something that at fifteen we are all looking to find. We were starting to realize we had a voice, our actions had consequences, and the world was not quite as unassuming as it had seemed. We were all searching for what we wanted our voices and actions to say…and Die for the Government was one hell of an anthem.
Die for the Government was a cd that was always in my car and always played at max volume, it was on most mix tapes and it never got old. Since that time I have seen them a few times at different size venues. From my local home town venue that holds 150 kids max to The Electric Factory to Warped Tour – and no matter where I saw them play, they always blew me away. Their energy on stage is not manufactured and they always connect with their audience. These are dudes who care and love punk rock, local scenes, and the global punk rock scene that we are all a part of.
This year, Anti-Flag is celebrating 20 years as a band with a few two night engagements in select cities and alternating opening bands. This past week brought them to their hometown of Pittsburgh and I was lucky enough to make it to the first night of shows. The opening bands were Worl’s Scariest Police Chases, Hostage Calm, and The Swellers – three bands that embody different elements that Anti-Flag has come to stand for.
As each band played, it became clear that it was a night about being a punk rock kid and going to shows. Each band commented on the scene and the nuances of what it means to be a punk kid. It was a celebration of the community that we have been able to create and sustain ourselves.
Though the venue continued to fill up through the night, there was a solid crowd for the opening bands. Worlds Scariest Police Chases assaulted the crowd (in the best possibly way those words can be understood) and left them pumped and wanting more. Hostage Calm who recently released a split with Anti-Flag were a bundle of energy that was intoxicating. They had a great rapport with the audience and gained new fans with every song.
The Swellers are always a favorite. I am a fan and they never disappoint at a live show. They are such an understated band who t plug away on tour and win over audiences every night, that I have no idea why they are not one of the biggest bands on the planet. Anyway, their set was awesome, great song choices and just enough banter to endear them to everyone in the room. They ended their set with Running Out Of Places To Go and the audience exploded into a pit of thrashing arms and voices all in unison.
Anti-Flag’s set spanned all their albums and showed their growth as a band. From the early tracks like Drink, Drank, Punk andFuck Police Brutality perfectly demonstrates the angst and passion that provoked them to form Anti-Flag and songs like 1915 that illustrate how far their songwriting has progressed. Each track powerful in its own way. With each song, the audience was stirred into a circle pit of frenzy that sang along to every word. The energy bounced back and forth between band and pit all night, each riling up and feeding off the other.
Like it or not, there was an encore, with the omission of Die for the Government, it was clearly planned and we all knew it was coming. They introduced the encore as three songs and the first two were for them because without those songs there would be no Anti-Flag. They then launched into The Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks, Fuck Off and The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go. I am always a big fan of bands playing a cover or two within a set, I think it shows them as fans and make more of a connection with the audience. For these two songs it was awesome to see them let loose and have a different kind of fun than when they play their own songs. They closed the show with Die For Your Government, which sent the crowd into a new level of intensity. That song, is one of the best rally songs ever written, still poignant today as it was in 1996 when it was released. From sixteen year old kids who are just discovering the injustices of the world to the forty year olds who have seen too much of those injustices were sing along with the same passion. Now that is a legacy any punk rock band should be damned proud of.
To me, what this night embodied overall was that, though punk rock albums are awesome, it is something that was meant to be heard and experienced live, packed into a building with too many sweaty like-minded people. The experience, the interaction, the pit can never be replaced.
Please check out all the bands, they all have fancy websites, facebook pages, tumblr blogs, and twitter feeds. Buy some music and merch. Go see some shows. I also wanted to mention that Anti-Flag’s label A-F Records is coming back in a fury. Check out their site and the bands that are currently part of the roster. Some really exciting stuff, I have a few reviews of those bands coming up, so stay tuned.