Anti-Flag / Strike Anywhere / Midtown - live in Washington, D.C. (Cover Artwork)

Anti-Flag / Strike Anywhere / Midtown

live in Washington, D.C. (2004)

live show

The Rock Against Bush tour came to Washington, D.C. I thought it was a bit ironic considering this was a tour designed to get people out and vote yet much of the fanbase of these bands were probably still in high school. Nevertheless, the small crowd of about 400, which wasn't surprising considering it was a Wednesday night, entered the club Nation and was there to see the rock.

Mike Park was up first and this man needs no introduction. His influence on the "scene" has been undeniable from playing in bands like Skankin Pickle and The Chinkees to running Asian Man Records to setting up the Plea for Peace tours. Some call him the Asian punk rock messiah, some call him a great guy. Tonight, Mike liked to refer to himself as an activist first and a musician second (I'd agree with him on that.) He was playing songs off his latest acoustic record that deals with racism and other life issues. The setup was: Mike, his acoustic guitar and a video monitor next to him. I'd never seen this setup at a show before. While he was playing, the monitor would show a recording of Mike as he wrote down a series of questions on a board. One question was "What records kept you going through high school" and he would start flashing us his vast vinyl record catalog (The Specials, Clash, Devo, Elvis Costello, Sex Pistols being some). Another question posed on video was "Are these your heroes too?" and images of Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr and JFK were shown. Some songs I liked were "From Korea" and "Blue Marble." It was a short 15 minute set but the crowd seemed pretty receptive. Mike was also telling us that his hometown San Jose was one of the nations' biggest cities that still did not have an all ages venues. He told us that he is trying to raise money to build a center for music and arts. We could all only hope every city has a guy like Mike Park working this hard.

The AKA's, with mod haircuts, ties and all, from New York City were up next with a 30 minute set of bare bones, full throttle, rock ‘n roll. 3 guys, a girl on keyboards and one crazy frontman kicked off the set with tons of energy. The lead singer was doing his best Mick Jagger impression, slithering and sliding all over the stage. The crowd seemed a bit annoyed as he pleaded with the crowd to go pick up their new CD at "11 songs. ONLY $5!!!!" Too bad the crowd of mostly mohawked kids wasn't into their set because this is a solid band. Although I wasn't too familiar with the band, they did play one song I knew called "Generation Vexed," amongst others. A lot of times, bands I don't know too well can win me over with their live performance and this was the case with the AKA's. They won me over by the end of their set and I considered buying one of their CDs but didn't have enough money. I'll be sure to pick up their record in the future.

Some guy came up to me and asked me who was next. I told him it was Midtown to which he replied with a groan. My thoughts exactly.

I was never a Midtown fan before and regardless of their performance, I was never going to become a Midtown fan. Their set was mostly a blur of forgettable songs. They did have some fans up front that were having fun. One thing that annoys me at shows is when bands have to tell you to get going and start moshing/pogoing. If the crowd isn't doing this on their own, it seems pretty lame to me when you have to force them to get excited. So when the bass player cried out "Do you guys know what a circle pit is?" and a few kids proceed to mosh, I turned around and checked out the merch table. Next.

At this point, the crowd, other than the tiny little pit that opened at Midtown's pleading, was fairly subdued which is typical of a D.C. crowd. But Richmond's Strike Anywhere started to set up and almost within minutes, the crowd swelled and people started moving up front in anticipation. There is something very special about Strike Anywhere that separates them from other bands. It's almost a perfect combination of everything you need to call a band great. They're obviously very passionate about their music. The music they play is uplifting, musically very tight, has great melodies, and Thomas is a great lyricist. They always put on amazing shows and tonight was no different. Strike Anywhere appeared on stage and jumped right into Infrared and for the first time that night, the hibernating crowd erupted into a moshing, sweating, finger pointing frenzy. And Thomas responded accordingly by several times during their set coming down to the front and shoving the mic in kids' faces. Other standout songs they played were "You're Fired," "Timebomb Generation," and the amazing "Sunset on 32nd." Shouts of "Richmond rocks" at the beginning of the set put a smile on Thomas' face. The political banter was kept to a minimum. Funniest point in the set was when someone requested "Hungry Like the Wolf" to which guitarist and Gillette model Matt (he will never live this down) replied with a curt "No." My only complaint with their set was at 30 minutes, it was way too short.

Anti-Flag was up next but I'd seen them before and wasn't really up for Bush bashing after every other song. The theme of the night was getting out and vote. The bands did get their shots at Bush but not to the point where it was nauseating. Too bad they may be preaching to the converted (or in this case, the underaged kids as well). A good show for me nonetheless.