by Dylan Bahney
The members of Anti-Flag raised their middle fingers high on the stage of Mr. Smalls Theatre.
None of their arms trembles or shook as they flipped off not the audience members, but rather the oppressive government present in modern society. Lead singer Justin Sane shouted the words to the song “F*** Police Brutality,” and certainly it hit home for a lot of people, in the wake of recent aggression toward the Occupy protests.
The audience mimicked the band’s profane gestures and the whole room was a middle-finger fest. Only at a punk rock show could such a thing be considered good, but indeed it was. The moment was powerful and uniting for a group of people who often felt downtrodden and outcast, and is very telling of the concert overall. Anti-Flag put on a highly energetic show and, along with the fantastic lineup of opening bands, cemented November 26th, 2011, as an amazing night for punk.
The show began with local band Mace Ballard. This pop-punk act played a very tight set that sounded great, however they could have used a bit more stage presence. They mostly just stood still or at least stayed at the same part of the stage. Still, their music was great for an opener, and their NOFX cover was a great touch.
Philadelphia punk band The Holy Mess played next, and what they lacked in technical skill they made up for in pure explosive energy. They played somewhat sloppily, partially owed to their level of intoxication, but their fiery songs and fun state banter made their set highly enjoyable.
The third band, Cancer Bats, traveled all the way to Pittsburgh from Toronto, Canada in order to play their heavy, sludge metal-esque hardcore punk and make the whole audience mosh. And mosh, they did. The crowd went insane as the Cancer Bats’ music erupted from behind the haze of the smoke machine.
“I wanna see that rainbow mohawk cut someone in half!” said the Bats’ lead singer, Liam Cormier, during their set. Cormier’s stage presence was a force to be reckoned with as he crouched at the front of the stage and screamed into the microphone like there was no tomorrow. All in all, when it comes to opening bands, the Cancer Bats took the cake in getting the audience to move.
The final act to go on before Anti-Flag seemed to take the best of every other opener and combine it into one set. Indie-punk experts The Menzingers dominated the stage with ease; they played their songs tightly, they had a dynamic stage presence, and the audience loved it. Their well-rounded performance did a great job of getting everybody pumped for the headliner, and of course their music itself is wonderful.
Before Anti-Flag went onstage, Justin Sane and two other people came onstage to talk about the dangers of ‘fracking’, or hydraulic fracturing, which is a method of extracting oil and natural gas that causes great harm to the environment. The two members of the anti-fracking initiative, who Sane introduced, briefly explained their purpose and encouraged the audience to take copies of the free pamphlet they had made to explain their cause. While this was an odd interlude to have at a concert, it made sense due to the progressive tendencies of the punk genre. The crowd seemed to honestly care about the cause, and people could be seen going to grab some pamphlets from the back. The message was very much worth the brief interruption in the music.
Finally, Anti-Flag came onstage to an ocean of cheering punks. This is what everyone had come to see, and the band did not disappoint. They played all of their popular angry protest songs, including the fiery hit “Turncoat,” and the audience never stopped moshing. The group even dedicated a song to the Occupy movement, called “The Economy Is Suffering, Let It Die”, from their newest album The People Or The Gun. This sentiment even further built upon the emotions invoked by their middle-finger-flinging song about police brutality.
Overall, the band’s set was explosive and a great end to a night of high-octane moshing and headbanging. It was angry and fiery, as punk is usually expected to be… but above all it captured something that people often forget punk rock should be: fun.