The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania political punks stop off in Bristol for one of four UK dates, to the delight of the loyal punk crowd.
Anti-Flag is on a four-week tour of Europe, taking in Germany, Belgium, Austria, Italy. and more. They finish off in Bristol with support from U.K’s Lowest and Brawlers. The crowd is a melting pot of different people: ages ranging from 16-60, businessmen to students, punks to rockers, and all things in-between. Kilts, leather jackets, tattoos, piercings, shorts, t-shirts, and a few great Mohicans of various colours! All have gathered to join the end-of-tour party.
Starting off in style are the young (but not-so-angelic) upstarts, U.K’s Lowest. The three-piece band from Bristol are made up of Callum Archer (guitar/vocals), Will Squier (drums/backing vocals), and Ben Bishop (bass/backing vocals). Each is only 16 years old and have obviously been brought up on their dads three-minute record collection.
They opened with â€œCity Soundâ€ to set the pace; a 90-miles-per-hour pace. Sounding like a cross between The Ramones and Green Day, they fly through 10 songs in their half-hour set. Will sports a fine blue Mohican, while Ben is only prevented from putting his head through the roof as he leaps by the tangled guitar chord holding him back! The last song, â€œF*** the System,â€ sums it all up: it’s fast, itâ€™s punk, and itâ€™s good!
Next up is Leedâ€™s Brawlers. Formed in the summer of 2013, Harry, Ant, Matthew and Pert gel well and are all definitely up for it tonight. Harry tells us that in the last week, one of the band has slept on a trampoline and one on top of the van; true punk rock and roll. â€œWe are a punk rock band,â€ stated Harry, â€œand today is my birthday!â€. â€œAnnabelâ€ ensues, with the tone set. â€œMothers and Fathersâ€ follows, with a catchy beat, and is radio-friendly while still having an edge.
The band is hyper, especially Anthony on bass, who has no lead to hold him back. A favourite track is â€œDonâ€™t Drink and Dial,â€ a great song with a great message. After asking if local legend Big Jeff is in the crowd â€“ and appearing to be disappointed he wasnâ€™t â€“ Harry announces â€œTwo minutes,â€ which ironically could well have been the longest song in the set. Next up is â€œInstagram Famous,â€ a great window on todayâ€™s non-punk culture. Following it is â€œRomantic Errors of our Youth,â€ which sees Harry and Anthony coming out into the crowd while Matthew plays a quick-fire guitar salvo from on top of the amps all backed by Perts solid speed-shots on the drums. It is a great set to welcome the headliners.
The crowd is on edge and ready to jump in by the time Anti-Flag hit the stage and have doubled in size since the end of the first act. The band is at the end of a European tour promoting new album, American Spring, and the band, Justin Sane (guitar/vocals), Pat Thetic (drums), Chris #2 (bass/vocals), and Chris Head (guitar), are ready for a party.
Playing a set spanning their whole career, the band covers material from the first album in 1996 through to the latest release. Starting with â€œTurncoat,â€ the crowd are soon in full voice, seemingly singing every word with the band. A strong, pogoing moshpit is soon formed and is relentless throughout the set. Their latest single, â€œFabled World,â€ follows from the new release and the choir are joining in with that too!
Anti-Flag – Fabled World (Official Video)
The band’s strong political activist views are evident throughout: anti-war, anti-imperialism, class struggle, and human rights vibes are apparent in all the lyrics. Short speeches are interspersed throughout the songs, bringing cheers from the crowd. This is especially true before â€œF*** Police Brutality,â€ a song about the horrific number of people beaten and killed by police and other power-crazy authorities around the world.
This sentiment is balanced by the heartfelt â€œPower to the Peaceful.” â€œBright Lights of America,â€ â€œNo Borders,â€ â€œOne Trillion Dollars,â€ and â€œThis is the Endâ€ tell similar stories. The crowd rallies and sings along, meaning and feeling every word. The pit looks like it may get messy, but it is all good-natured and just an invigorated crowd enjoying themselves. This is a meteoric fireball of a set, hard and fast, and the masses are being dragged along for the ride by the scruff of their necks.
Justin then states they wouldnâ€™t be there if it hadnâ€™t been for The Clash, and they go on to play a speeded up version of â€œShould I stay…,â€ dedicating it to the late, great Joe Strummer. Another new song, â€œBrandenburg Gate,â€ has another catchy chorus, followed by the anti-war â€œDie for the Government.â€ This song has a strong message about the futility of war, encased in a rocking beat.
Halfway through, the song is stopped and the crowd are asked to clear space in front of the stage. The drum kit is lifted over the barrier and set up mid-audience. As the song continues, the pounding drums are back into action and Chris on bass comes to join in too. The satiated crowd is loving it, and it is something truly memorable and spectacular.
The set ends and the crowd want more – but that is the end! Curfew dictates. A true establishment rule! A real shame, as they could have gone on a lot longer, and so would the audience! It was an amazing night â€“ a fantastic performance.
If you missed them this time round, Anti-Flag will be back in the UK in October for 7 more dates. Check the website for details.
Photographs by Becky Oâ€™Grady at R-O-C-K Photography