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Anti-Flag at Hard Luck Bar – Toronto Review

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Anti-Flag at Hard Luck Bar – Toronto Review

Anti Flag - Hard Luck Bar - Toronto

Anti Flag – Hard Luck Bar – Toronto – Cred: Nathan Mills

Total Score: 10/10

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Who: Anti-Flag
From: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Where: Hard Luck Bar, Toronto, ON
When: May 23rd & May 24th, 2013

Last Thursday (May 23rd) and Friday (May 24th), the renowned political punk band Anti-Flag blew the roof off Hard Luck Bar. The anticipation for this 20-year anniversary tour created a huge buzz that was steady for a couple of weeks leading up to it.

Anti-Flag are a leftist punk band from Pittsburgh, USA. Their songs mostly reflect on the political and social state of America, highlighting socio-economical, racial and gender-based inequalities. They are die hard supporters of many human and animal rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace and peta2. However, they are after all a punk band and they like to have fun, so the listener will find a generous amount of party songs on their records as well.

The 20th anniversary provided Anti-Flag with a great opportunity to do whatever they wanted with this tour. So they decided to hit up the East Coast with double-date shows in all the designated cities. Each night Anti-Flag covered 5 of their albums (in non-chronological order), mixing older punk rock anthems with the newer fan favourites.

Being a fan of the band since I was 15, I was head over heels for this two day event. I had very high hopes and I wasn’t disappointed in the very least.

On the first night, I have arrived at Hard Luck early enough to catch all three of the opening acts. The line up was kinda odd in my opinion, but a lot of people were digging it. By the time Anti-Flag hit the stage I had a couple of beers in me and had secured a spot right behind the pit area. The two tall guys on either side of me also helped to ensure I was focusing on the show and not pushing people back into the mosh pit. As soon as the crowd heard the first chords of “Drink Drank Punk” it got a little crazy. Anti-Flag couldn’t have opened the set with a better song. The room exploded with energy and Anti-Flag was able to sustain this level of participation and enthusiasm all throughout the night. People were moshing, skanking and stage diving all the time; the mosh pit only stopping when Chris #2 (bass, vocals) would motion a clap along. Anti-Flag were very respectful and protective of their fans. Everyone was reminded to mosh responsibly. As a frequent mosher, it warmed my heart to hear Chris #2 remind people that we are a community, so if anyone falls down we have to pick them up and make sure they are okay. This rule is generally carried through the punk shows; but sadly doesn’t reach the metal shows, where it sometimes is more about the battle of the egos. Proving once again how awesome they are, Chris #2 grabbed one of the kids who was about to stage-dive and with the help of the drummer Pat Thetic sent him off into the crowd with a drum-roll.

Anti-Flag sound tighter than ever, and I was surprised to have heard some songs sounding better than on the record. That was mostly true for older songs from Die For The Government and A New Kind of Army. Same was true for songs from Underground Network and Their System Doesn’t Work for You during the second night.  The band have an incredible chemistry and can communicate with each other by looks only. Both sets went on without any hiccups, except for when Chris #2’s bass battery ran out in the middle of the first night’s set, oops! Otherwise, it is obvious that the guys are seasoned musicians even when they bring out the care-free punk attitude.

It was also amazing to see how passionate they still are about what they do and what they believe in. Justin Sane (vocals, guitar) and Chris #2 took time in between the songs to acknowledge how important it is for them that the punk community is alive and thriving in Toronto. It looked like they were genuinely humbled by the turn out. They also spoke about human rights activism and what it means to them.  As a member of the audience, I felt the urge to help them fight the good fight for a brighter future. Closer to the end of the set Justin Sane invited Renee Saviour, Amnesty International Canada’s Executive Committee Director, to speak about the work they do. Amnesty International were at Hard Luck these two nights on Anti-Flag’s personal request. Renee Saviour asked for donations and offered the audience to sign a petition to free Pussy Riot, an all-girl Russian punk band that was imprisoned after performing an anti-Putin song in a church. She has also thanked Anti-Flag for all their support.

After an epic show of middle fingers for “Fuck Police Brutality” Anti-Flag jumped right into the encore. The crowd wanted to hear more more, the band wanted to play more, so why wait 15 minutes? Anti-Flag played two Ramones covers – my personal favourite “The KKK Took My Baby Away” and the classic “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”. There couldn’t have been a better end to the night than “Die For The Government”. The fists were in the air and the crowd was shouting at the top of their lungs.

When it was all over I felt drunk on life. As the rest of the band went backstage, Justin Sane took a couple of minutes to hang out with the fans, listening to everyone and taking pictures. I thought that I had seen everything, but lo and behold, night #2 was on it’s way.

The next night I had to skip over the opening bands and have arrived just in time to talk to Amnesty International representatives before Anti-Flag started their set. If Thursday had a more intimate feeling to it, then Friday was complete chaos. Hard Luck was at capacity and at some point the circle pit was taking up half the venue. People were flying all over the place. Some things, like the Amnesty International speech, were repeated on stage for the people who missed the first night, but honestly the crowd on Friday was more interested in drinking and moshing. That said Anti-Flag made damn sure that everyone was drenched in sweat by the end of the night. One of the most memorable moments from the second night was the break down in the middle of the “Spaz’s House Destruction Party” – “this song is 4 minutes too long for a punk song” (Chris #2). As with the night before, they went straight into the encore without any breaks. For the encore, they played Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” and wrapped it all up with “Cities Burn”. At that time Pat Thetic took the bass drum and the snare down to the main floor and the mind-blown fans circled around him!!! The band then hung out with the fans again.

Overall, both nights were excellent, and I was overjoyed to be there for both of them. I hope that Anti-Flag will come back soon, because this city needs gigs like this. And how the hell is Hard Luck still standing after two crazy nights like that?

Review By: Raya P Morrison
Photos: Nathan Mills

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