A crowded room, a great deal of smoking (although the band tried to make it a smoke free show), and loads of "political insight" (ie: Fuck Bush!).
Yep, sounds like an Anti-Flag show to me. On this night however, one act would go ahead and steal the show from the headlining AF: Those Virginian desperados known as Strike Anywhere
Mike Park hit the stage about half an hour before the show was even scheduled to start, acoustic guitar and DVD projector in hand. He hit the play button on the player, and launched into his set without any sort of introduction. The media presentation drew cheers from the audience, as the screen played a video displaying Park holding up all of the records which he claimed got him through high school, and later his thoughts on Asian Americans in American society and entertainment. All the while, Mike sang through a few of his songs, his voice never wavering. Although his media presentation was insightful, it detracted from the songs themselves, as a great deal of the crowd was paying more attention to Mike Park in the video rather than Mike Park himself. Overall, an enjoyable, albeit short, set.
The A.K.A.s (who are still apparently everywhere) took the stage second. They immediatley started playing "Gotta Get Outta Here" from their debut album White Doves and Smoking Guns. I'd have to say that The A.K.A.s are a band that comes off a lot better live than on record. All of the songs sounded fuller, and rocked harder as a result. The only thing lacking here was the energy of the band themselves. With the exception of lead singer Mike Ski, the rest of The A.K.A.s were quite subdued. A few kids in the audience sang along, but for the most part stayed almost completely still (except for the obligitory "let's start a circle pit" song that seems to plague every band that tours with AF).
Midtown seemed a bit out of place on this tour. They also seemed to be in total denial of the fact that they also had two other CDs besides their recently released Forget What You Know, as the bulk of their set came from that album. These thoughts aside, they managed to put on a somewhat enjoyable show.
Then, in the coup d'etat of the evening, Strike Anywhere stormed the stage and managed to prove to everybody that they should have been the band headlining this tour. Easily the most high-energy band of the night, they played a nice mix of tunes from the two full lengths, opening with "Lights Go Out" and keeping up the momentum until the climactic "To The World". Quite possibly worth the entire ticket price, Strike Anywhere is the band to see on this tour.
Playing on select dates, The Nightwatchman (aka Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine) came on next and played what sounded to me like a series of almost sterotypical protest songs, all delivered in a strangely Johnny Cash-esque voice. A lot of people probably cheered just because of the man's pedigree, but as a musician, his act could use some work. What was entertaining to see though was Morello pulling out some of his RATM stage moves all while playing an acoustic guitar.
Then, after an enternity of a set up time, in which loud screeches of noise came from something on #2's bass setup screwing up, Anti-Flag took the stage after being introduced by an independent filmaker (who's insight for the night could be summed up with the line "Fuck (insert controversial topic here)". "Rank and File" was first, and of course, the crowd lost their shit. Hearing "Captain Anarchy" live for the first time since the first time I saw them was a pleasant surprise, as it also acted as a way for them to lighten up a bit. The show ended with the 1-2-3 punch of "Got The Numbers", "911 For Peace", and "Death Of A Nation".
Then came the encore, that of course being "Die For Your Government" and in a pleasant surprise, Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land", which became a total all-star sing-a-long, with everybody from almost every band up there singing along. A great way to end the show.
Something I have noticed about Anti-Flag in the past year or so, is that they are becoming more and more cartoonish as time goes by. Be it the height of their mohawks, or the more juvenile their onstage banter is becoming. I've always been against our current president, but when I'm looking for people to allign with in the struggle against him, I'd like to hear a bit more insight into the situation than "Fuck Bush!" or "Fuck the War!". I will commend AF for making voter registration a larger priority this time around, but at the same time, I wish they would give the crowd more information, so instead of kids just running around screaming about how much they hate Bush and the war, they'll have more concrete reasons to back up their feelings. How about distributing literature on the other candidates in the election? Or more literature on the issues in this election? Anything could help to make us sound a little less ignorant than bands like AF are sounding now. They should take an example from Mike Park or even Strike Anywhere.
Overall, however, the show was a good time, although the slightly aimless and excessive political banter, plus the apparent lack of energy on a few bands' parts put a slight damper on the experience for me.