You wouldn’t expect, on a cold night in January, to see more than 300 people voluntarily standing outside in -45 degree weather for over two hours. Yet, you can never underestimate the dedication that punk demi-gods Anti-Flag and Rise Against elicit from Montreal fans. The sold out show last Friday at Le Medley was a near surreal experience, if not for the combination of Fat Wreck Chords finest, than for the more than 2,400 people that packed the club on St. Denis St. and waited outside in hopes of last minute tickets.
The “Death of A Nation Tour,” which has been winding its’ way across the U.S. and Canada since November, came close to Canadian completion in Montreal, the second last city on the northern leg. The tour itself, which takes its name from an Anti-Flag song, brought with it not only the musical talents of Against Me!, None More Black, Rise Against, and headliners Anti-Flag, but also a potent political message.
With the U.S. presidential election looming large, politics seems to be the new rallying point for the punk rock community.
While the genre has never shied away from controversy, the focus is shifting away from mere political criticism to political action. Punkvoter.com, a web site aimed at informing and motivating American youth to exercise their democratic right to choose the future leader of the country, has gathered support from the likes of NOFX, Greenday, and Anti-Flag.
“We’re part of a larger community of kids,” explains Anti-Flag’s cryptically labeled vocalist and bassist, “Number 2.” ” We’d like to let [the candidates] know that we’re here, and we care about what’s going on. If [they] want our vote, [they] have to care about the issues that we are [concerned about].”
While the message may appear to be aimed at an American population, with a Canadian federal election expected in the not too distant future, the push for youth empowerment through democracy is easily translated north of the boarder. As “Pat Thetic,” drummer of Anti-Flag insists, political activism has no borders, “I think that’s what gets us all to drive out in -40-degree weather: the ability to be able to communicate this message to more people.”
Anti-Flag have also become a role model for a more traditional form of activism.
The band has created Underground Action Alliance, a web site devoted to inspiring activism among youth. “[The web site] was started because a lot of people come up to us and tell us ‘I want to get involved, I’m angry, I’m frustrated, but I don’t know what I can do,” Pat empathetically explains. “[They tell us] ‘I don’t know about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Amnesty International, or I’ve never heard of the Animal Liberation Front.” We allow them to experience those things through the web site.”
Activism is not only a theoretical ideology for the bands of the “Death of a Nation Tour.” Along with the usual plethora of merchandise and mixed drinks, was a booth hosted by local activist groups hoping to enlighten some of the concert-goers about some of the relevant issues tackled within the lyrics of their favourite bands.
The show itself, aside from the politics and plunging mercury, presented the audience with an intermingling of ideas and attitudes. Against Me! turned their usual rowdiness into a celebration for drummer Warren’s 23rd birthday, complete with topless antics and countless requests for nude fans on stage during Anti-Flag’s set.
Rise Against, a band which is quickly becoming a Montreal favourite, brought with them the intensity and musical prowess that launched them so quickly into the limelight in 2003. Rounding out the show, Anti-Flag, with more than ten years of tours and sold out shows under their belts, showed that experience is what makes a good show great.
The energy that they inspire not only on stage, but also in the crowd, is a sight that can only be experienced by a band with a tremendously loyal following.
The frigid Montreal weather certainly wasn’t a hindrance to the good times had by the full house at Le Medley.
While the show may have come and gone, the message that the tour aspired to bring to the youth of Montreal will hopefully remain long after the spring thaw.