Riot Fest: Anti-Flag

Pittsburg punks set Chicago ablaze

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While Rise Against may have succeeded in taking punk rock to the masses with their integrity intact, there are plenty more bands keeping the torch burning underneath the mainstream, too.

Though Pittsburgh’s Anti-Flag did spend a few years on a major label, their politically-charged punk is, perhaps, too vicious and radical to afford them the same kind of million-selling status as their Chicago contemporaries (or Green Day or The Offspring or any band that’s turned their power chords into gold bars.) But while their message might not be as far-reaching, onstage it’s just as powerful.

Justin Sane leads the four-piece through a fierce set that invokes the revolutionary zeal of The MC5, referring to everyone gathered in front of the band - and that’s a lot of people - as “brothers and sisters”, encouraging and announcing the importance of community. For one crowd member - a kid, no more than four or five, called Donovan with a bright red Mohawk who is sitting on one of his parent’s shoulders - that’s taken to the extreme. After finding out his name and praising his hair (“You put my Mowhawk to shame,” beams Sane), he dedicates Fuck Police Brutality to Donovan, who clenches his tiny fist in the air as a sea of middle fingers surround him. By the time the song is over, Donovan has also extended his middle finger, much to the delight of both band and crowd. After apologising for the song’s swearing, Sane then asks everybody to say hello to Donovan. He waves back happily, before the band charge into the onslaught of You’ve Gotta Die For The Government and a rousing finale of Power To The Peaceful. The positive energy andinspiration that buzzes in the air is phenomenal, not least for little Donovan, still perched high, fist still raised, perhaps dreaming of one day taking on the world and all its evils.