Anti-Flag have been ruling the punk airwaves for a good part of the last 20 years now, having released their debut album back in 1996. Last night, the classic punk pioneers hit Amsterdam’s Melkweg together with support from protest singer-songwriter The Homeless Gospel Choir, Aussie punks Trophy Eyes and Oklahoma’s very own Red City Radio. Read on for a full live review of the show.
Although it being a workday for most, the Melkweg was already filled up nicely by the time Pittsburgh musician Derek Zanetti, aka The Homeless Gospel Choir, took to the small stage. Performing a 30-minute set filled with protest-punk, Zanetti just about managed to get the crowd going. Set highlight Normal saw a select few fans sing along loudly, with Zanetti more than grateful for the sizeable turnout he received. Following a 15-minute switchover, Aussie punk outfit Trophy Eyes took to the stage in front of a crowd relatively bigger than the one Zanetti drew. Frontman John Floreani was on top form for the duration of the 30-minute set, bounding energetically around the stage for the whole show. Set highlight Hourglass was the most energetic moment in the show, with Floreani even taking it upon himself to jump into the crowd briefly. Although his vocals were at times relatively off and quite atonal, musically Trophy Eyes have plenty of promise which demonstrates exactly why Hopeless Records signed them in the first place. Once their set came to a close, another 15-minute switchover made way Oklahoma alt punkers Red City Radio. From the moment the band took to the stage, it was very clear that plenty of people were there to see them. Frontman Garrett Dale and bassist Jonathan Knight spent the majority of the showing providing between-song banter, with the former often divulging on stories from previous escapades in Amsterdam. Set highlight Pretend Kings, from new album Red City Radio, saw the band’s set reach a musical climax which could only be likened to a hefty dosage of euphoria entering your system. The band may not be the most well-known quartet of their genre, but they definitely deserve to be playing stages bigger than this to crowds twice this size. Who knows what the future will bring for Red City Radio, because right now it’s looking promising.
After a 25-minute switchover, which saw the whole evening start 15 minutes earlier than scheduled, Anti-Flag finally took to a stage adorned with political slogans, war imagery and a megaphone which had the word ‘apathy’ written in large on its side. Taking to the stage one by one, the band immediately kicked into classic track Turncoat, sparking instant mosh pits in and amongst doses of anthemia and nostalgia. The powerful one-two of new track Fabled World (taken from 2015’s American Spring) and the powerful Broken Bones made for the first stagedivers of the evening. It was a common occurrence throughout the whole show, with the majority of the Melkweg floor reserved for punk-induced energy release. The extremely ferocious Fuck Police Brutality was preceded by a visceral speech from bassist Chris#2 who, alongside on-form frontman Justin Sane, made for the focal point of Anti-Flag’s politically infused protest. Completing the band are rhythm guitarist Chris Head and drummer Pat Thetic, the latter of whom spent a majority of the show staring up at the sky in utmost focus.
During the middle part of the set, the songs started to repeat themselves to an extent and sound similar, with Justin Sane’s lead guitar often the only thing which helps you set it apart from the rest. Not that this was a problem for the crowd, though, as they completely lapped up every single distorted chord, manic guitar stab and scream in sight. Show highlight The Press Corpse proved to be the best received track of the evening, kicking off with a hefty dose of upbeat verses and a catchy refrain of “we don’t want to talk about it”. The song, just like with most of Anti-Flag’s output, is very much politically charged and reflective of the current situation this world finds itself in. Frontman Sane also took out time during the set to talk about the current refugee crisis, concluding that “every single one of us is human”. His statement was met by loud cheers from the crowd, who cheered him on as he introduced main set closer Death of a Nation.
Anti-Flag performed four songs from new album American Spring, with new single All of the Poison, All of the Pain proving one of the highlights. Later on in the set, during the encore, The Homeless Gospel Choir joined the band on stage for a rendition of fellow new track Brandenburg Gate. Before kicking in to the uplifting song, Sane asked the crowd to put their arms around one another in a statement of positivity whilst jumping up into the air. It proved popular, with the whole room singing along and embracing the euphoria. It made for a double headed closer which took place half on stage and half in the crowd; first, Die for the Government saw every single fist or middle finger raised up high whilst drummer Thetic pounded on a bass and snare drum in crowd, before the whole evening came to a brash end on the Ska-esque Drink Drank Punk. If it wasn’t for the musicians being on the floor in the room, then the venue would’ve absolutely erupted with so many crowdsurfers that you’d almost consider filing a world record attempt. After 18 songs and just under an hour of playing, Anti-Flag managed to prove to Amsterdam that they are still as important as ever before. Whether or not they’ll ever reach the stratospheric heights of their 90s heyday remains to be seen, however this current political climate needs a band like Anti-Flag to rise from the ashes and give everyone the finger. And that’s exactly what they’re going to do, whether you have to die for the government or not…
Watch the music video for All of the Poison, All of the Pain below.