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Anti-Flag w/ The Briggs and Street Dogs – [Live]

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Monday, 14 April 2008

Making my way over to The Fillmore, I kept telling myself that tonight was going to be different. I was going to have a whole new attitude for a change, and was not going to be the same bitter, jaded and crusty old man that I usually am when I hit a punk show these days. I was going to have an open mind and embrace today's punk rock, even if it sounds nothing like the punk I remember when I was growing up. And although I took it as a compliment, gone was the "Elitist Punk Asshole" that I was referred to on someone else's blog, and instead I was happy, optimistic, wide eyed and open eared. It really made me want to puke.

As I walked into The Fillmore and over to the bar, Florida's Fake Problems were just wrapping up their set. As much I wanted to put my new outlook to the test, it was going to have to wait until the next band. I can say that the crowd seemed to really like them, so let that encourage you to go check out their music.

After a quick stage breakdown and set-up, The Briggs, a four-piece from Los Angles, hit the stage, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with what I heard. Sounding like a cross between Rancid, Sham 69 and Stiff Little Fingers, they sounded great, and every song played was full guitar, hooks and anthems. Although their sound was very melodic, they made no apologies for it. Frontman Joey LaRocca and his brother Jason were trading off on vocal duties while each playing guitar, and both made their way from the stage, over the photo pit and into the crowd on several occasions. Although there was no real sense of "danger" that the punk shows of my youth had, I did enjoy seeing a band put the security at the front of the stage to work. Bassist Ryan Roberts and drummer Chris Arredondo were also highly energetic, and together the four of them put on a catchy, melodic and rocking set. Highlights for me included "Dead Men (Don't Tell Tales)," "One Shot Down," and "Back to Higher Grounds," which might be one of the catchiest songs I've ever heard. Looks like The Briggs are playing the Warped Tour this year, and I am definitely looking forward to catching them.

After making my way through the much younger than myself crowd and over to the bar for another beer, I started thinking about the last time I had seen Street Dogs, and how I really wasn't all that impressed, probably due to the fact that they were on the bill with 7 Seconds, who were the band responsible for getting me into punk rock in the first place. A 7 Seconds show is rare these days here in S.F., and I was so looking forward to seeing them that I was quick to blow off any band hitting the stage before them. Realizing now that that was a perfect example of how closed minded I've become when it comes to today's punk rock, I decided right then and there that tonight I was going to give Street Dogs a chance. I'm glad I did….

Hailing from Boston, Street Dogs are the perfect working-class punk band, and their songs reflected that. Vocalist Mike McColgan is as personable a frontman as you will find, and at times he was really reminding of Dictators leader and living legend Handsome Dick Manitoba. His energy and enthusiasm was undeniable, and he had the punk rock kids eating out of his hand. As for the rest of the band, bassist Johnny Rioux was all over the stage, while guitarists Marcus Hollar and Tobe Bean were both feeding of the vibe of the crowd, and their chords were wrapping around Mike's vocals quite nicely. Every song the 'Dogs played tonight was a show of support to both the working class and the underdogs of America, and the band playing the rhythm to 7 Seconds' "We're Gonna Fight" while McColgan spoke to the crowd perched on top of a speaker cabinet only solidified that. As I was standing there listening to it, I was thinking that if any other band was playing 7 Seconds I would consider it a rip off, but props to Street Dogs for using it quite nicely. I hope I wasn't the only one who recognized it. Other stand-outs from what I now think was way too short of a set included "Drink Tonight," "Fatty" and "Not Without a Fight." Street Dogs totally won me over tonight, and like The Briggs, I will definitely be checking them out on the Warped Tour.

With a huge backdrop of their just released "Bright Lights of America" album artwork behind them, Anti-Flag hit the stage running, and immediately launched into what would be a very fast-paced set. Guitarist/Vox Justin Sane was all over the stage, while his counterparts Chris Head on guitar and Chris #2 on bass were exchanging their stage left and stage-right positions constantly while providing backing vocals at the same time. Drummer Pat Thetic was drumming in a total blur and every time he looked up from his kit he seemed to be smiling. #2 was also shouting out lyrics to the crowd with a megaphone mounted to a microphone stand at times, providing a pretty cool element to the songs. During at least one song a timpani drum was also used, and although I first thought it was odd, looking back on it now it was sounded pretty awesome, as it's something you don't see used that often, if at all. It also underlined the music quite nicely.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes find the over-political lyrics of today's music a bit annoying (Ministry being the perfect example) and a bit of a "shtick" more than anything else, but Anti-Flag lyrics are a bit smarter and at the same time much less "preachy" than most bands. Songs from the back catalogue including "War Sucks, Let's Party!" "Project for a New American Century," "Death of a Nation" and "Fuck Police Brutality" all delivered Anti-Flag's message with conviction and without overkill, and they all rocked quite hard. New songs "Spit in the Face," "The Modern Rome Burning," "The Bright Lights of America" and "Smartest Bomb" all sounded great, and despite the bullshit cries from some long time fans of Anti-Flag selling out, I am looking forward to hearing the new album. I've seen quite a few punk bands sell out during my time, and judging from tonight's show, Anti-Flag is not one of them. Unfortunately Anti-Flag's set seemed to be over within the blink of an eye, and before I knew it the show was over.

Looking back on this show, I was really glad that I chose to cover it. I have not given today's punk rock music much of a chance, and after watching three great sets from three great bands, I think I will be much more open minded when it comes to the punk rock music of today, although I did enjoy being called an Elitist Punk Asshole.

More on Anti-Flag: www.anti-flag.com

More on The Briggs: www.thebriggs.org

More on Street Dogs: www.street-dogs.com

Related Articles: Feature: Truth, Justice and the Anti-Flag Way

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