Although it’s not completely obvious, I am an extremely political person. I tend to keep my views under wraps when it comes to friends and co-workers but I’m notorious for speaking my mind when I feel it needs to be spoken. I didn’t grow up in an overly political household. I remember hearing NPR from time to time and hearing what was going on in the world and not completely loving it but not doing anything about it. That was before I heard of Anti-Flag. After the fateful day that I saw them on that 2002 Warped Tour DVD I bought from a local record shop and still watch weekly, it was a downward spiral into a world of political activism. I couldn’t be happier that Anti-Flag came into my life and that they seemed to give me and a whole generation of misfits a voice when it came to politics. With how messed up everything seems to be right now, I needed to see Anti-Flag live just to give me the assurance that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts and frustrations with the world– thankfully, they were playing at Amsterdam in Saint Paul last night so after a quick nap and dinner after work, I headed downtown for the punk rock show.
Unfortunately, I was late getting to the show and completely missed opening act Sharptooth. I say unfortunately with full honesty. Before I even got into the venue part of The Amsterdam Bar & Hall, I was shown a photo of the wall near the stage by a staff member who is a good friend of mine. The wall had a giant hole in it and I immediately demanded answers. She explained that singer Lauren Kashan had accidentally run into the wall creating the hole. After a quick laugh over the situation, I continued my journey into the venue side of the bar and was instantly greeted with the feeling I had been longing for. Sure, seeing The Killers on Wednesday night was amazing but being at a punk show is a whole different kind of amazing.
The White Noise was the first band I was able to catch and within just a couple of seconds, I was thoroughly impressed. Hailing from Dallas, Texas, this group only has one album that came out just last year so the fact that there were people screaming along to every single word was truly a shock. Their sound was loud and in your face. It had the entire bar rattling along to the beat and had the crowd moving around with a sense of fury that opening acts rarely get. Their set was not as politically charged as the two bands that were to follow but there were still political undertones and lyrics that made them a perfect fit for this tour.
Following The White Noise was a personal favorite of mine- Stray From The Path. Having seen these guys many times now, they never fail to impress me and somehow keep every set feeling fresh even though I have seen them so many times. I don’t think I ever realized just how political this group was but after hearing the statements singer Andrew Dijorio was saying inbetween songs and now, after going back and reading through some lyrics, I have finally seen the light and am seriously ashamed that I didn’t catch it sooner. Maybe it was being on the road with such an overly political group, but it felt like SFTP was finally taking advantage of their platform to make a statement. With words on equality and the fact that absolutely everyone is welcome at their shows (except racists, bigots, homophobes, transphobes– you get it) , SFTP powered through their quick set with precision and energy.
As I mentioned, this group never fails to impress me. I could seriously watch them every night of the week and not get bored. There’s a sense of brutality behind their music but that is juxtaposed by the sense of down to earth-ness that you get from the members. Sure, they look like badasses as they storm across the stage and swing their guitars while banging their heads but when you hear them address the crowd, there’s this feeling of watching your big brother or your best friend. It’s next to impossible to explain but I promise you, there’s something special about the members of this band. Their metalcore sound was still ringing in my ears as they left the stage and their set and the smile on my face quickly faded. I didn’t want their set to end, I wanted them to play every song they’ve ever released but I knew that was too much to ask for. I always look forward to catching SFTP live and now I’ll just have to look forward to the next time this Long Island, New York group finds their way to Minnesota.
Closing out the night was political punk legends- Anti-Flag. As I mentioned, I’ve been listening to these guys for years and feel like they truly made me the political activist I am. Their songs have been my personal soundtrack to many protests and near misses with police at said protests. Their music seems to give myself and other like minded individuals the courage to stand up for what we believe in and if that doesn’t say something about the power of music, I don’t know what will. As soon as they stepped onto the modest stage, I felt something come over me. A sense of power and strength that I don’t get at every single show. As they jumped into their set, I jumped into the crowd and from there on out, everything was a bit of a blur.
The music of Anti-Flag is fast and hits you like a punch to the gut. Every single word they use is a stab at the government and is placed with thought. Instead of being a political band that puts out songs that just say “Fuck Trump” or “Fuck the government”, these guys are putting out songs that go into detail about problems facing the world today. You see, the thing about this band is they are so much more than the music– they are a statement and it’s a statement that many people sympathize with. The connection between you, the band, the message, and the people creating a sweaty mess around you is something that you can only get at a show like this. Sure, other shows are great but there isn’t always a message behind them. Having that message being shouted through the microphones and throughout the crowd creates a whole new dynamic that you don’t always get from concerts.
Anti-Flag’s set seemed short– like abnormally short. After just forty minutes of music, the explained that the next song would be their last. I was shocked and disappointed but also knew that there was going to be an encore of at least a handful of songs. Even with that encore, it wasn’t enough for me and, much like Stray From The Path’s set, I was left longing for more. I felt safe during last night’s show and felt like I was truly part of a community– not just a clique.
As you can probably tell, I loved last night but have a hard time putting it all into words. It’s so amazing to see a band that you’ve worshiped for years and has made such a huge impact on the way you live your life, in such an intimate space. Sure, going to concerts may get old when I get on a bender of weeks on end with no nights off but it’s nights like last night that keep me energized and remind me why I do this to myself.
Venue: Amsterdam Bar & Hall
Sausage Fest Meter- 9 out of 10
Average Age of the Crowd- 27
Crowd Surfers- 3
Stage Divers- 18
Broken Bones- 0
Spotted Flying Through The Air- Bodies
People Taken Out By Security- 0
Celebrity Sightings- Eric of Buried Above Ground
Overall Score- 9.3 out of 10
Show on Deck- TBD