Last night was one of those feel good type of shows. With good friends by my side (some of which I hadn’t seen in years) and a cold drink in my hand, I watched in awe as bands that I’ve been watching for over ten years did what they always do. Each of the three bands destroyed it last night and gave me an excuse to escape from the anxiety attacks that have been plaguing me lately due to lack of sleep and stress. It didn’t matter that the headlining act isn’t one of my favorite bands. What mattered was the feel I got surrounded by their fans as they screamed along to songs that meant everything to them.
Kicking things off promptly at 7PM was a personal favorite of mine– Anti-Flag. Having gotten to meet a couple of the guys when I was covering Northern Invasion in the fall, I now see this band in a completely different light. Whereas I used to look at them as mega rockstars that may have just been doing the political thing to gain attention (I think deep down I knew that wasn’t true but it was always a thought in my head), I now know that it is so much more than that. Instead of just hearing their words of activism and their urge to take action against a corrupt system, I felt it and that changed the entire dynamic of their set. Although short, their set was full of songs I found myself screaming along to and others where all I could do was bouncing along to the fast beat since I truly can’t keep up with this band (with twelve albums out, I still find myself always listening to their older material).
I was clearly not alone in my excitement. There were around twenty-seven crowd surfers. I know that’s lower than some of my counts in the past but, keep in mind, this was just during the opening set. I walked into The Armory on Thursday night expecting to be one of the few people actually interested in Anti-Flag’s set but was quickly proven wrong. Towards the end, the band asked the crowd to show off the biggest circle pit the night would see and that’s exactly what the audience did. The pit quickly expanded to take over nearly the entire front half of the floor space. As the song kicked off, so did the fans and I couldn’t help but join in on the fun. As I ran around in a circle with hundreds of other fans, I couldn’t help but feel the giant grin stretch across my face. Out of the hundreds of moments that made last night memorable, that was probably my favorite.
After the politically charged set from Anti-Flag it was time for a set of pure nostalgia from AFI. I obsessed over this band in my teenage years. Singer Davey Havok had a very distinct, almost operatic, voice and his look was something I just couldn’t take my eyes off of. Although things have changed and the years have passed, somethings never changed and within the first song from their set I was back in my bedroom as an angsty teenager cutting pictures of the band members out of magazines and stapling them to my walls. With only ten songs in their set, I knew there was no way I was going to hear every song I wanted to hear but them opening with “Girl’s Not Grey” (obvious my anthem when I was fourteen) made whatever came next more than fine by me. Much like Anti-Flag’s set, I couldn’t scream along with the words to the newer songs but being surrounded by people that could was just as good. As the lights zoomed around the giant venue and the smile spread across my face, I, again, found myself in my happy place.
Rise Against is a band that I just never really got into. I couldn’t tell you why or why I’ve never really dug into their discography. Their lyrics are exactly what I typically look for and singer Tim McIlrath has a voice that is super distinct which, again, is something I look for. Regardless, they just never hooked me. It’s not that I hate them or don’t appreciate what they gave a whole generation of music fans, more that I just don’t connect and don’t get it. That being said, as soon as the lights went down and they jumped into their opening song of “The Violence” I felt that warm and fuzzy feeling take over me again and I completely let myself get lost in the music and energy around me.
With eight albums out, each of which means everything to somebody in the crowd last night, the band did their best to narrow it down to their twelve song set followed by a four song encore. It was clear that some people didn’t hear the songs that they wanted but it was also clear that people were just ecstatic to have had the chance to see this influential band live. The energy was electric. I found myself standing outside of the packed audience and up against a wall to keep my person space bubble intact which gave me a great view of what was going on on the floor. With a couple people getting a good old-fashioned mosh pit going, a handful of people pumping their fists and everybody singing along, it was one of those shows where you felt the importance of the band even if they meant nothing to you. The crowd seemed reluctant to leave as the last note of “Swing Life Away” was left hanging in the air and I don’t blame them.
The amount of passion and energy that was in the air at The Armory last night was better than any high from any drug. Some bands mean everything to people. Those are the shows I want to go to night after night. That’s the high that I continue to chase night after night. Thank you to all three bands for giving me that last night.