By: Lauren Garbutt (@LaurenGarbutt1) –
The first of punk legends Anti-Flag’s two consecutive Toronto dates at the Hard Luck bar was, to say the least, a fantastic, and for many, a nostalgic time.
Celebrating their 20th anniversary, Anti-Flag has an extensive catalog, which allows them to play just about anything they want and on each show of this tour no two songs or albums will be alike. Last night, they performed songs from their albums, Die For the Government, A New Kind of Army, Mobilize, The Terror Stateand The General Strike.
Opening the show were Toronto natives, Junior Battles, with Glenn Barrington from the band !ATTENTION! playing drums. The talented pop punk band was talkative throughout their set and they made remarks about how happy they were to be playing the show and to have gotten to borrow gear from both Chris #2 of Anti-Flag and from the next band, Code Orange Kids. Playing songs such as “Anyone Who Ever Died”, “Never Alone” and, “No I Don’t Think So”, the band had some in the audience singing along and a pit opened up in the crowd during the climate to their set.
The second band, Pennsylvania’s Code Orange Kids, was a band of few words. They began with the drummer explaining that this would probably be their last Canadian show because they were probably banned from Canada from now on, and then launched into their set. A pit immediately consumed much of floor and carried on throughout the entire set. They were considerably darker than the rest of the bands, as their sound was much heavier and hardcore, featuring gutturalvocals from three out of four of the group’s members, front and centre being female vocalist, Reba Meyers.
Conneticut punk quintet Hostage Calm was next up. The band, who released their latest album, Please Remain Calm, in fall 2012, played an energetic and engaging set, and had numerous people at the front of the stage singing along and stage diving. Their sound leaned toward the pop punk side and were switched up when front man, Chris Martin, picked up an acoustic guitar nearing the end of their set and played a few songs with it, which included “The M Word” among others. For their last song, they played “Don’t Die On Me Now”, which had the audience clapping and singing along.
As Anti-Flag took the stage the crowd huddled in as close as humanly possible. They opened up with the classic “Drink Drank Punk,” from their album “Die for the Government” and followed up with “Turncoat” and “Broken Bones”.
Anti-Flag were the same as they’ve ever been, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.
Anti-Flag has always stood for unity and vocalist/guitarist Justin Sane discussed starting “a community with no racism and no homophobia”. Prior to launching into “Tearing Everyone Down” he mentioned the shift of “people being all about themselves” and how it was so nice to see people who are keeping the punk scene alive, noting that Toronto had a thriving scene.
Known for their involvement and interest in politics and human rights issues, they also had a representative from Amnesty International speak on stage, encouraging the crowd to sign their petition to free Pussy Riot. By their reaction, they whole-heartedly agreed.
As the show concluded, Anti-Flag covered a couple of Ramones favourites in “KKK” and “Sheena”, before playing the song everyone was waiting for, “Die For Your Government”. This rallying and memorable closing song sent the crowd into a frenzied sing along, pushing toward the front of the stage.
The small venue provided a unique and rare opportunity to see these punk rock veterans play in an up-close and intimate setting. Anti-Flag have always been politically charged, never overly complex, and positive, and there is something to besaid about the fact that the same people who saw them twenty years ago are still seeing them to this day.
Anti-Flag have been in it for the long haul and can be found deep in the hearts of many, and while the crowd was surprisingly not sold out, the place was still packed and the people who in attendance really wanted to be there.
There is still tonight’s show featuring albums, Their System Doesn’t Work For You, Underground Network, The Terror State, For Blood and Empire, and The Bright Lights of America. Rumour is there are still tickets at the door. Don’t let them go to waste!