JAMES PATRICK CASEY reviews Anti-Flag live at The Old Blue Last, and is equally impressed by the concentration of punk t-shirts in an unassuming Shoreditch pub as he is by the iconic band he went to see.
Unlike a lot of bands, Anti-Flag are singularly aggressive live; there are no acoustic songs to break up the action, no slower numbers to let you catch your breath, just endless anti-establishment anthems. This, combined with an upstairs bar tucked away in a pub that’s the size of a slightly oversized broom cupboard, made seeing the Pittsburgh punks one of the more relentlessly energetic gigs I’ve experienced.
The band themselves deserve extra credit for putting this show on in the first place; they were booked in to play The Old Blue Last in the evening, when gigs are usually played, but demand was so great that they announced a one-off matinee on the same day. I was at this earlier show – it’s very disconcerting to walk out of a gig and into tea-time – and the aggressive enthusiasm with which Anti-Flag attacked this, ultimately superfluous, event underlines how genuine they are as people and musicians.
From bassist Chris #2’s speech on promoting a lifestyle of empathy beyond the easy confines of the tolerant punk community, to drummer Pat Thetic bringing his kit into the middle of the crowd to play among the fans for the last few songs, this was a group of people who treated their crowd of fans (who had failed to buy a ticket the first time) as if they were the most important people in the world. The group also stuck around for a bit after the show to meet fans; I had a chat with frontman Justin Sane about being Straight Edge, as well as a new profile picture that deserved way more than, like, ten likes. These were awesome touches, given the deeply personal focus of the album they were touring to promote (American Spring, a review of which can be found here on SAVAGE).
Opening rockers Brawlers were also great, their singer spending as much time among the crowd as on stage, as well as sporting a rather nice beanie. So listenable and enthusiastic were they that it was a shame there wasn’t more moshing from the crowd. And despite its size, The Old Blue Last works well as a music venue, with no poles in the way of pits, nor any inconvenient stage doors so that the acts must wade through waves of fans to get onstage. In fact, these logistics of the venue may have contributed to my weirdest ever boast: I’ve touched three members of Anti-Flag.
But joking aside, that’s not what this band is about. As they sing on ‘Brandenburg Gate’, “I couldn’t see her from the other side/They said ‘Son, there’s no glory in your pride'”.
All photos by Jake Lewis for The Old Blue Last.
Anti-Flag played at The Old Blue Last on 2nd June 2015. Their ninth studio album American Spring is out now on Spinefarm Records.