Grabbing Aiden, Cancer Bats, and Star Fucking Hipsters, Anti-Flag embarked on the nationwide The Economy Sucks Tour. The tour rolled into New York City on February 4, stopping at the intimate 700-person Highline Ballroom. Missing the opening bands, I arrived only to see Anti-Flag take the stage at 9PM.
Anti-Flag kicked things off with “The Press Corpse”, the first of five songs from their RCA Records debut, For Blood and Empire. The 2006 album isn’t amongst the band’s top works, but luckily the Pittsburgh four-piece did their best to choose the album’s best cuts. “Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C.”, the leadoff track from the band’s excellent new album followed, with Justin Sane’s biting religious cynicism taking aim at politics in the nation’s capital. The anti-George Bush “Turncoat” went next, inspiring the entire crowd to sing along to the condemnations against the former world leader: “Turncoat, killer, liar, thief — criminal with protection of the law.”
Lead by Chris Head’s driving guitar, tour namesake “The Economy Is Suffering… Let It Die” was relevant and potent. “Underground Network” was dedicated to Amnesty International, an organization set on abolishing human rights injustices such as torture and promoting human dignity. Bassist Chris Parker (Chris #2) grabbed a megaphone for “The Modern Rome is Burning” from 2008’s The Bright Lights of America, screaming comparisons between the historical burning Rome and modern United States cities.
Two of the band’s oldest songs, “Drink Drank Punk” and “Fuck Police Brutality”, received the warmest reception of the evening with circle pits of punks in patched leather jackets slamming through the crowd. A representative of Iraq Veterans Against the War was invited on stage by the band and spoke out against United States involvement in the middle-east prior to a performance of “This is the End”. The essential “You’ve Got To Die For The Government” closed out the band’s set with the crowd singing along: “You’ve gotta die for your government, die for your country? That’s shit!”
Anti-Flag returned to perform three extremely well-done covers of The Clash, including the London outfit’s take on the Sonny Curtis original “I Fought the Law”. Perhaps no band identifies with or embraces The Clash’s ideals in the last thirty years more than Anti-Flag, so an entire encore based on the seminal English punks makes perfect sense. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” appeared to finish the entire evening, but as the crew took down the band’s gear drummer Pat Thetic set up a drum in the crowd and began to play “Power to the Peaceful”, the final song of of the band’s nineteen song setlist:
The Press Corpse
Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C. (Sheep In Shepherd’s Clothing)
The Economy Is Suffering… Let It Die
I’d Tell You But…
The Modern Rome Burning
1 Trillion Dollar$
Drink Drank Punk
Fuck Police Brutality
This Is The End (For You My Friend)
This is The First Night
The Gre(A)t Depression
You’ve Got To Die For The Government
The Guns Of Brixton (The Clash cover)
I Fought The Law (The Clash cover)
Should I Stay Or Should I Go (The Clash cover)
Power To The Peaceful
Encouraging community and human compassion, Anti-Flag united and inspired the Highline Ballroom crowd. The band’s setlist was extremely heavy on newer works, but luckily much of that new material is just as powerful as the band’s early catalog. Anti-Flag’s message that music can be more than pop radio resonated loudly; an extremely polarizing and outspoken band, it isn’t necessary to agree with every single message the band sends. It is important, however, to fight for your own ideals and for the causes that strike a chord with you.
Photographs by Lizak.