Concert Review: Anti-Flag at the Beachland Ballroom

Anti-Flag: pro black shirts with white ties.
  • Anti-Flag: pro black shirts with white ties.

It was a strange scene at the Beachland Ballroom Saturday night — a mix of preteens, old guys in leather Ramones jackets, guys chugging PBRs and some scary-looking punk kids. But as singer Liam Cormier of opening band the Cancer Bats said, this montage of people is “what punk rock is all about.”

Cleveland's the Devildolls Rock n Roll Street Gang opened the show. Frontman Billy Nowhere sings like Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, but the band's spastic songs ran together and were filled with typical thrashing punk-guitar parts. Good luck figuring out what the group was actually singing about.

The Star Fucking Hipsters were barely a verse into their first song when two guys were diving off the stage. Besides having the most punk-rock band name on the bill, the Star Fucking Hipsters sounded great — mixing New York underground, political punk and ska. Frontman Nico de Gaillo’s lazy, ragged voice and the simple but overpowering instrumentation give the band a classic punk feel.

“Let me introduce ourselves,” the Cancer Bats' Cormier screamed as way of introduction to his Canadian group. “We’re the motherfucking Cancer Bats!” The band’s set of raging punk-metal sent the audience into a frenzied state, just in time for Aiden to take the stage. After a few drags on his cigarette, singer WiL Francis said, “We’re Aiden,” which was the cue for all hell to break loose. They played many songs from their latest album, Knives, including “Scavenger of the Damned” and “Crusification,” a “fuck you” to religion. Francis sings “I am the devil” with such conviction, it could be true.

All those naysayers who say punk is dead haven’t heard Anti-Flag. The Pittsburgh band has been around longer than most of its fans have been alive (19 years and 11 records, to be specific). “Underground Network” and “Die for Your Government” elicited fist-pumps and moshing from fans. “Cities Burn” and “This Is the End (For You My Friend)” from 2006’ For Blood and Empire — Anti-Flag's most most popular album — sounded more composed onstage than some of the older songs, but they were just as anthemic.

Watching Anti-Flag is like watching a political movement. If the band isn’t singing against big spending, war and religion, they're talking about it. “Tonight for a couple hours we get to leave all that shit behind,” said singer and guitarist Justin Sane before launching into “Turncoats.”

Anti-Flag slowed things down on “This Is the First Night” from their latest album, The People or the Gun. They also covered The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” And an Anti-Flag show wouldn't be complete without calling out the president: “That guy turned out to be a fucking disappointment.” Big words from guys who managed to motivate their fans to care about politics. It doesn't get more punk rock than that. —Brittany Moseley

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