Anti-Flag

support The Homeless Gospel Choir
author PP date 28/11/15 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

In comparison to what might have been, tonight's lineup at the Anti-Flag show feels a little depleted. First, Red City Radio weren't a part of the whole European tour for no apparent reason (at least no public comment was made about that). Then, another exciting and innovative punk group Trophy Eyes were forced to cancel this tour due to a promoter canceling their appearance on the three preceding dates, which gave the Aussie band virtually no chance to pay their bills and make it up to Denmark to play a single show. That left just The Homeless Gospel Choir as the lone support, who did a great job tonight, but ticket buyers were still feeling like they missed out on a stacked punk lineup. Such is luck sometimes, and at least the well-oiled Anti-Flag machine rolled forth as it should, even if signs of tiredness from a six-week tour were clearly visible.

The Homeless Gospel Choir - a mixture of The Wonder Years and Frank Turner?

The Homeless Gospel Choir

Turns out the name isn't the only thing quirky about The Homeless Gospel Choir. Consisting of only Derek Zanetti on acoustic guitar and vocals, the one-man band is delightfully awkward and laugh-out-loud hilarious with his folksy lyricism that hits the spot for anyone well acquainted with the punk scene. "This is a protest song", he mentions before literally every single song, which range from aggressively strummed, punk-laden acoustic pieces to calmer, almost a capella tracks, thus bringing into mind early Frank Turner from his first two albums. Common to both styles is a wonderfully charismatic and funny delivery of super relatable lyrics. There's a speech about you never going be normal because you're a punk, and another track about musical preferences, in which he sings he likes you no matter what you listen to unless it's Mumford & Sons (and a number of other artists get their share of criticism as well). The crowd, initially skeptical, grows louder and louder in their laughter to his quirky jokes and lyricism, as well as in cheers once the songs are over. I went out and listened to the record on Bandcamp afterwards, let's just say that the studio versions don't do the live versions any justice. Consistently funny and charming, he wins over pretty much everyone in the crowd tonight. On the off chance you didn't like it, you probably don't know enough about the punk scene to understand the piercing criticism and the smartness of his lyrics thereof, but hey, that's okay too. One man shows rarely get better than this, what a positive surprise.

8

Anti-Flag

"Turncoat! Killer! Liar! Thief!", the familiar lyrics to "Turncoat" get the show off to a great start straight away. People are pushed around as a bouncing pit forms immediately and people start shouting back the words at the band in thunderous fashion. With a high-energy onslaught present on stage, too, this is how to kick off the show in great fashion. For the next eighteen songs, there's pretty much nonstop action in the front of the stage: whether it's ridiculous stage dives (we'll get back to that), circle pits, middle fingers up in the air, or up-and-down bouncing, the crowd sure is alive tonight.

The set tonight is primarily focused on new material and a collage of hits from their best-selling album "For Blood And Empire", and a few oldies to please the die-hards in the crowd. The band isn't quite as energetic and unpredictable on stage as they usually are, despite Chris#2 throwing his fair share of scissor-kick jumps, and the band being great at their usual mid-song crowd control to get people engaged in the show. After a six week tour and this being the final stop before a long flight home, you'd be tired too, so unfortunately we aren't treated to some of the band's oft-spectacular mid-show antics that have previously counted stuff like an anti-wall of death at Roskilde, or the biggest circle pit I've ever seen in my life at Groezrock some years back. There is a moment where the band gets everyone to meet-and-greet the persons on their left and right side to show that we're all a big family. Plus, to claim their show wasn't energetic would be flat out lying: everyone's having a good time even though this might just be the first time out of eight times I've seen Anti-Flag where I felt like they were flying on autopilot for most of the set.

With fewer political speeches and fewer statements about social injustice compared to earlier times, the set is pretty much only interrupted by a brief mention of drones prior to "Sky Is Falling", where ironically enough a (rather large and drunken) crowd surfer gets told off with a gesture by Chris #2 after basically face planting his first attempt where only a couple of people were catching him up front. This incident repeats itself during "All Of The Poison, All Of The Pain", after which the band actually interrupts their set and Chris#2 states with a sense of irritation in his voice: "Come on dude, nobody wants to catch you". Finally, we get a staged attempt where he talks to the singer on stage and we move a lot of the taller and bigger guys up front to catch him after a drum roll for the band, and that's that for the rest of the set (although when a girl later on stage dives, the crowd hoorays for her bravery). The whole scenario leaves a little bit of a bad taste in your mouth because a) the band were clearly annoyed about this, and b) the whole thing felt like a total debacle because a segment of the crowd was slowly shifting into an irate mood, mostly because this action exposed that the crowd just isn't as packed tonight as we're used to it being for Anti-Flag shows.

That being said, the band respond with a parade of great songs shortly after. "This Machine Kills Fascists" is a punk classic from the old days, and its polar-opposite counterpart "One Trillion Dollar$" is a huge sing along right after. "Walk Away" is one of the better songs off the new album, and "The Press Corpse" is a crowd favorite due to its upbeat tone and circle-pit friendly tempo. Still, "Hymn For The Dead" wins the prize with the biggest circle pit tonight ("okay, now go the other way!"), and it was great to see The Homeless Gospel Choir join on stage for "Brandenburg Gate" even if his performance here was pretty anonymous compared to earlier. Then it's time for the Anti-Flag signature trick: rebuilding the drumkit in the middle of the pit during "Die For The Government" and moving Justin Sane's mic stand and platform in the middle of the pit. Here we go for a manic "Drink Drank Punk" with no encore in sight as the band elevate the punk vibe of the show considerably. Afterwards, the band stay behind to take photos and actively engage fans still left at the venue, proving Anti-Flag haven't changed as a band despite their major label adventures and 20+ years as a band. Still, having seen the band tear so many venues and festivals a new one, it's difficult to leave the set feeling like this was another day in the office, which is a first for the undersigned considering how consistently awesome they are usually.

Setlist:

  • 1. Turncoat
  • 2. Fabled World
  • 3. Fuck Police Brutality
  • 4. I'd Tell You But...
  • 5. Sky Is Falling
  • 6. Broken Bones
  • 7. Power To The Peaceful
  • 8. All Of The Poison, All Of The Pain
  • 9. This Is The End (For You My Friend)
  • 10. This Machine Kills Fascists
  • 11. 1 Trillion Dollar$
  • 12. Walk Away
  • 13. The Press Corpse
  • 14. Death Of A Nation
  • 15. Hymn For The Dead
  • 16. Brandenburg Gate
  • 17. Die For The Government
  • 18. Drink Drank Punk

Photos by: Lykke Nielsen

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