Reel Big Fish and Anti-Flag
February 15, 201
All photos by Pollen Heath.
Mainstream ska masters and Huntington Beach natives Reel Big Fish and 90’s punk icons Anti-Flag (Pittsburg, PA) hit the road in January, 2017 to collectively celebrate the the Anniversary of their fabled hit albums, Turn the Radio Off and Die For The Government. San Francisco was the very last stop, on their 38 city tour. The audience at the Regency Ballroom on a Wednesday night was treated to an evening of protest, unity, and vibrant SoCal punk-ska.
In 1996, Reel Big Fish hit gold with their first album Turn the Radio Off, featuring the hit single “Sell Out,” riding a popularity wave of the ska-punk movement. In the meantime, Anti-Flag, a
Both bands have carried through the decades with no more than one original member, but this goes un-noticed by their level of passion and energy. In fact, the addition of bass player Chris No 2 to Anti-Flag’s line up has certainly kicked their game up LITERALLY since their original line up in 1988, and the more recent addition of Matt Appelton (Saxl Rose) to the Big Fish line up has upped the band’s playful antics quite a bit from previous iterations of the group.
As the smell of MJ grew thicker, and amidst bold Technicolor Hawaiian shirts, flashy emblems, neon sunglasses and horns, Reel Big Fish kicked their set off with “I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend Too.” The crowd hit the floor with frantic pogo-style antics, huge smiles, and jazz-hands. Thus began the blitz of an extremely upbeat happy-go-lucky ensemble, in contrast to the very serious, politically driven set by Anti-Flag.
There was a collective crowd-born gasp for air after Reel Big Fish played the hit single “Sell Out,” as the crowd caught their breath, but the vibe picked up again with the bridge of “Trendy,” a harder punk rock kick-beat song, also from the Turn the Radio Off album.
The band and the fans kept their frantic skankin’ edge until the very end with no less than four encore songs, one of which was an unlikely A-Ha cover, “Take on Me,” a song that made an interesting fit in the ska format, and won everyone over to this quirky six piece in the end.
Anti-Flag played an incredible set, with extremely controversial and passionate commentary placed in between each song. The impact of their anti-war, pro-love, unity driven, anti-trump, class driven anti-government was nonetheless strong enough to move mountains and give this group of 90’s punk rock millennials a voice on this Thursday night in San Francisco. Like the generation of punk rock originators of the late 70s and 80s, these fans have a purposeful grip on the reality of today’s political environment. Many of them sported mohawks, punk rock band patchwork, studded belts, and flannels around their waists, laden with hardcore messaging.
Anti-Flag’s hard-hitting political statements, shouted out by Chris No 2 and original member Justin Sane, were strongly emphasized by the upside down American flag on stage, a symbol of the resistance they practice every day. Fans were obviously moved by their passionate commentary, and rage, at the current state of affairs in the U.S, and in particular the election of Donald Trump as President.
At one point mid-set, Chris No 2 angrily proclaimed President Trump was a “.. NY Real Estate mogul who brags about his poor treatment of women..,” and as he lead into the song “Kill The Rich” he screamed “..it’s a very small world when you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth. His dad’s a piece of shit, and he is too!” The lyrics set fire to the physicality on stage and an already sparked circle-pit.
With each message conveyed by the band in protest, neighborly love, and action, the audience went wild.
Stage diving and peaceful crowd surfing during the assailment of the Anti-Flag set was not entirely curbed, but closely monitored by Regency security. This stern, yet peaceful, approach to crowd control seemed to work well with the band and fans alike. On the general admission floor, fans were genuine and courteous to one another, helping each other up if someone fell in the pit, at the encouragement of the band. It was also incredible to note, that this crowd of Gen Yers seldom held cell phones up on the floor to take snap shots and video of the band. They were too busy engaging with the four horsemen on-stage and waving their fists high in protest.
The feeling of unity and courage for change at this show was reminiscent of the empowering, peaceful women’s march last month. Incredible and invigorating. A feeling that will stay with their fans post tour for weeks to come.
Towards the end of their set, Anti-Flag paid tribute to early punk with an invigorating version of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go;” the band obviously plays a huge influence on their writing and style. This flowed flowed well into a setup of bassist Chris No 2 and drummer Pat Thetic on the floor of The Regency leadin off with the group’s 2015 release (recorded with Tim Armstrong of Rancid) of the song “The Brandenburg Gate,” alongside a crowd of a hundred or so faithful fans at their side. The song obviously harkened to the historic German monument symbolizing peace.
Not only was Anti-Flag’s set extremely apropos for the current state of political affairs, it will fire demand for a new Anti-Flag album. Will we see another one in 2017? 2018? That remains to be seen. Mr. Sane?
Reel Big Fish:
Setlist: I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend Too | Another F.U. Song | Your Guts (I Hate ‘Em) | Sell Out | Trendy | Join the Club | She Has a Girlfriend Now | Snoop Dogg, Baby | 241 | Everything Sucks | S.R. | Skatanic | All I Want Is More | Nothin’ | Say ‘Ten’ | I’ll Never Be | Alternative, Baby | The Impression That I Get (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones cover) | Beer / Self Esteem (Offspring cover) | | I’m Cool | Everyone Else Is an Asshole | Where Have You Been | Take on Me (a‐ha cover)
For more info on Reel Big Fish, see their website.
Setlist: You’d Do the Same | Die for the Government | Drink Drank Punk | Rotten Future | Davey Destroyed the Punk Scene | Summer Squatter Go Home | Fuck Police Brutality | I’m Being Watched by the CIA | Kill the Rich | Your Daddy Was a Rich Man, Your Daddy’s Fucking Dead | Turncoat | All of the Poison, All of the Pain | The Press Corpse | 1 Trillion Dollar$ | This Is the End (For You My Friend) | Should I Stay or Should I Go (The Clash cover) | Cities Burn |
Find out more about Anti-Flag here.