Gig Review - Anti-Flag
It’s been a while since I last went to a proper punk gig but the first rule of rock gigs (the scarier the fans look, the nicer people they are) still applies, and I felt comfortably at home propped against the barrier in front of the stage in The Garage waiting for this three-band Friday fun fest to get under way.
Maid of Ace were first on stage, and any thoughts that these four sisters from Hastings, whose initials each spell “ACE”, might be a bit of a novelty act were instantly dispelled. Alison shouted a quick Hello Glasgow and they crashed straight into “Stay Away”, a cracking full-pelt opening number, giving guitarist Anna an early solo. “Hollywood Rain” was next and kept the momentum going. Drummer Abby works hard for her art and delivers a reliable and relentless beat to drive the band along. Amy carries the tunes with precision on her bass while Anna and Alison show off on guitars and Alison belts out the lyrics in a voice that’s more torn than her tights. Maid of Ace maintain the noble punk traditions of loud bass and cymbals and some chantable choruses – “Minimum Wage” and “Made in England” both getting the crowd joining in. It was great to see them sticking around side-stage for the rest of the show after setting the pace, and helping lug gear between bands to help things move along smoothly.
Next up were Canadian five-piece psychobilly outfit The Creepshow, a bit more into their melodies and storytelling but still superfast when they want to be. Sean McNab plays a big upright double bass and Kenda Legaspi (vocals and guitar) climbs up on it while they sing about horror movie themes – are you getting the picture? They have a real knack for getting the crowd going and had us doing everything from chanting along with choruses to forming a circle pit around Kenda in the middle of the floor. Despite the frantic tempo of songs like “See You In Hell” there is an interesting complexity to their music with shared vocals, a keyboard, the double bass and two guitars all contributing to the unique Creepshow atmosphere. The instrumental section in “Death At My Door” had me wondering if there was a competition for World’s fastest prog song. Great show, guys!
Blitzkrieg Bop on the leader tape told us it was time for Anti-Flag. Originally from Pittsburgh PA, Justin Sane (vocals, guitar), Pat Thetic (drums), Chris Head (guitar, vocals) and Chris “#2” Barker (bass, vocals) have been playing together for over 20 years and are well known for their political activism. You could be forgiven if you feared their enthusiasm for it might be wearing thin, but fear not! They are still angry and active, and current world politics fuel the fire in their bellies more than ever before. Mercifully (for me, anyway – never been a fan of turning up for a rock show and getting a lecture on politics or being told who to hate) theirs is a message of love and cooperation, of looking out for one another and of sharing a couple of hours in a safe bubble of unbridled joy.
As well as jumping like Pete Townshend and pounding out the bassline, Chris #2 handled most of the between-song chat, exhorting us to dance away our violence and hate, if someone falls down, pick them up and reminding us that Anti-Flag means anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-war and anti-bigotry. They were promoting the Safe Gigs for Women message at the merch stall – good to see them go beyond just talking the talk.
It’s a punk gig: songs come so fast and furious I’m not going to namecheck through the setlist or we’ll be here all day (4 encores – you get your money’s worth from these guys). With 12 studio albums behind them there is a strong catalogue to work from and their crowd sang and chanted and danced their way through the whole show. Standouts for me included “the Press Corpse”, “the Disease”, “This is the End (for You, my Friend)” and “American Attraction” and the last song of the evening where Pat brought a couple of his drums and joined Chris #2 in the middle of the crowd for “Die for the Government”. Another nice touch was members of the support bands joining Anti-Flag on stage during the encores.
If you could harness the energy of that night; the crowd surging back and forth, moshing, whirling in circle pits and surfing you’d earn a hug from Greta Thunberg – it was frenetic and incessant. Gigs like that should be available on prescription!