Three hundred and sixty-five days and this is the third time I’ve seen Anti-Flag live. Actually, I’ve probably seen Anti-Flag more than most people who are reading this have. I’ve seen them so much I can generally predict portions of their show, and Zack and I frequently bet on what they’ll open with (I always bet on / hope for “Press Corpse”).
Anti-Flag is joined on the “Silence Equals Violence” tour by three bands I’d never heard of. Most of the promo leading up led me to believe that it was going to skew hardcore and that was kind of enough background as Zack and I headed to the Magic Stick in Detroit on January 16 for the first date of the tour.
There was no local opener (boo!), so first up was Sharptooth, an East Coast melodic hardcore five piece. At first the aggressive and in-your-face theatrics seemed at odds with the night’s headliners, but listening a little closer their reasons for joining the tour became clear. Vocalist Lauren Kashan delivers biting femme-forward commentary from the mic, making sure to make space for femme, queer, or people of color from the stage. Physically Lauren is a petite person but you wouldn’t notice that as she marched around the stage with a deep, assertive growl. I wasn’t surprised to look them up for this piece and find their chugging, aggressive sound landed them a spot on last year’s Warped Tour.
Nothing shows just how much of an un-punk dweeb I am than my visceral reaction to seeing someone climb on venue equipment. The Magic Stick recently went through a renovation. So as I watched The White Noise‘s vocalist Shawn Walker climb onto a giant, relatively new speaker stack, I was crippled by a “don’t break that, we just got it” sort of fear. That being said, the band had a ton of energy and great crowd work as our speaker climber dove in and out of the crowd. If you’re going in hoping they sound like their recordings, expect a much less polished, rougher and faster version. I’d actually thought I had looked up the wrong band when listening to their recorded work for this piece.
As Stray From The Path took the stage I couldn’t un-hear the similarities between them and Rage Against the Machine. It was there from guitar tone to vocalist Andrew Dijorio’s almost rap-sung lyrical delivery. It’s in those lyrics and after a little digging into their background that you can see why Anti-Flag called them up for this tour. Last year, they released a track called “Good-Night Alt Right” with an accompanying video that delightfully gives a fictional Nazi the what for – a video that even more delightfully drew ire from InfoWars (one of those horrid alt right “news” sites). Between that and their full-out energy and aggression, I’m pretty sold.
I’m severely out of touch with anything-core and the sort of bands Alt Press covers, which is definitely a category in which I would put the three openers. I don’t necessarily dislike -core; I just really prefer funky grooves, walking bass lines and melody. And that Alt Press vibe is just built for people much younger than me. So to take a peek behind the curtain I usually walk right past and see bold women on stage and strong messages of anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, and anti-transphobia is refreshing. It’s great to see that force for good spreading through all of the bits of rock sub genres. Overall, none of these bands were ones I’d have ever sought out myself, but I’m happy to seek spaces on our stages for voices advocating for change and safe spaces.
There’s a lot of comfort in really knowing how a band plays and the kind of sets they put together, especially when you’re talking about a band so adept for stage shows like Anti-Flag. For whatever opinions folks have on the band, the one most commonly-held is that they are tight as fuck live. Their shows are always exhilarating, even if you know the drum set is going to move into the audience. It’s genuinely fun watching first timers get pulled into their performance and experience that sort of shock factor that comes along with watching Chris #2 complete another set without breaking his ankles jumping off of everything.
The setlist was varied, different from even the one I heard a little more than a month ago. They’ve toured pretty heavily on For Blood and Empire tracks during the past few year, which I think is their most commercially successful record to date. While it still hung on that record with tracks like “Press Corpse” and “One Trillion Dollars,” they tossed in some I haven’t caught live in years like “Depleted Uranium (Is A War Crime),” “911 For Peace,” and “This Is The End (For You My Friend).”
If you’ve seen Anti-Flag in the last few years, head out to see them again. Some of the familiar markers are there, but it’s been updated and revamped. If you haven’t seen them live, ask yourself some tough questions about whether you like fun or live music, and head out to see them. And if you’re feeling weary from a world that seems to be slipping further and further backward, head to an Anti-Flag show and charge yourself up.
**Photos from Zack Jacob below