It feels like I have come around full circle but I have no plans of stopping here. As I took that screaming death trap down memory lane in Torso Punk, I remembered a few of my favorite bands in my awkward formative years and started subjecting my ears to the band that started it all. Anti-Flag really hit me in a way that none of the others did and after writing that blog, I found they were coming here to Arizona. Perfect timing, right? Well, the truth is I wasn’t entirely set on going at first. Yet, with a bit of encouragement and knowing I’m going to have to suck it the fuck up and go to a punk show at some point or surrender any claim to my own passion and ideology. Why didn’t I want to go? Even I know how crazy the shows can get and I have no desire to become a Torso Sammich. Why did I really go? I had to stop holding myself back and this was the perfect storm of opportunity.
The first band up was Skull Drug and I hate to say that I’ve gotten used to the first opener being fairly lacking. At least that was until these guys proved me absolutely wrong! I kinda wish we had gotten right up to the stage earlier instead of trying to navigate the merch table before they got nearly impossible to navigate with a wide wheelchair. I am normally one of the many Arizonans who are pretty stoic at shows. I don’t cheer, I don’t sing along, and I don’t participate when the band asks. There is a good part of me feels uncomfortable doing all that because I’m used to drawing as little attention to myself as possible. Yet, I didn’t hesitate to take a moment at Anti-Flag’s merch table to look over and scream “Fuck you!” as invited. I wanted to stop by their table a bit later but they were gone by the end of the show and where I ended up, there was no way I was getting there between bands. Yet, I still managed to have someone get me their patch and I’m going to be poking around their music. Any apprehension I had left about these guys left the moment they rocked a cover of “I Love Livin’ In The City” and was a perfect note to leave on. I was pumped and somewhat out of my shell.
I was really impressed with how quick some of their turn around was. I’m used to far more of a wait between sets but I will not complain one bit. Next up was The Homeless Gospel Choir and I had checked this guy out a while back. In all honesty, I love the idea and passion behind it but it wasn’t exactly for me. Though, I do mean that in the past tense. Even if it may not entirely be my thing, I love the humor this guy brings to the stage and I can really get behind the lyrics. On his site, he says that he hopes you grow to love his tunes just as much and he does and maybe one will be your new favorite song. Well, Derek, there is one song in particular that meant a lot to me and it was wonderful to hear it live. “Normal” hit that little squishy spot way in the back. It was easy to find my own connection to it along with a tank of inspiration. It’s always nice when you find something very similar to the things you tell yourself every day and this did that. What made seeing him even better had absolutely nothing to do with me. You see, most of the concerts I go to is with my Mum. I get a lot of my musical tastes from her and it’s all her fault I found punk rock in the first place. Additionally, she puts forth a lot of effort to make sure I go to shows and experience the world around me in a way that may not always be the most feasible. So when The Homeless Gospel Choir finished, he handed my Mum his book and said, “Here, this is for you.” Now, it’s worth mentioning that weird things happen around and to me and I’m still getting used to the random acts of kindness. Yet, to see some of that weirdness pass on to my Mum for once was incredible. Plus the look of shock on her face was priceless.
Third in the lineup was War On Women and another band I got to check out before the show. I already liked their sound and ferocity from watching their music video for “Say It” on YouTube. Now, seeing them in person was something far more intense. It was a shame with the sound system that we really couldn’t hear the vocals very well but the instruments came through loud and clear. I’m pretty certain this is where I started to lose my hearing for the night and it was amazing! Watching the stage presence of the band was powerful with a certain poise. In truth, the real shame was having their bassist come up to us to thank us for rocking out. Turns out, there wasn’t much reaction from the crowd. Now, I’ve witnessed this before a long time ago when I saw Nine Inch Nails for the first time. It was like having balcony seats to the zombie apocalypse! You’d look down to the floor and see a hoard of bodies just swaying listlessly. It’s really a disappointment when I have more energy than the rest of Arizona. Seriously, this band rocked and it was a pleasure to talk to the bassist, even if it was to hear that my home state sucks as an audience.
Finally, we reach the peek of the night. The act everyone was waiting for, Anti-Flag, took the stage and I got to see what a punk show was really like. It didn’t take long for the whole floor to transform into a giant pit and the Missus, my Mum, my Step-Dad, and I were between the punks on the floor and the stage. On the up side, best spot ever being front and fucking center. Whatever hearing I had left was about to be obliterated. The down side, I was one wrong move from getting overly intimate with the edge of the stage. Yet, aside from the potential injury hazard I faced, I completely lost myself in the moment. The timid weirdo in a wheelchair that was just as bad as every other audience member that never sang along or participated with the band’s request was screaming every lyric he knew in a way that hadn’t been done since 6th grade. The band ordered every middle finger up and I had both presented as hard as I could that I swore I nearly dislocated both my shoulders and it was fantastic. I haven’t had my voice go out after a show since my first Rob Zombie show in 2006 and I went home with my throat raw. What’s more, I survived the night. No Torso Sammich, no intimate moment with the stage and I have a lot of people to thank for that.
In a room of who knows how many people, each one happy to be there and burning every once of energy to show their love for the music, I hadn’t really considered the rambunctious pit when we snagged that perfect spot up against the stage. After the first few songs, we were suddenly reminded of that pit as the Missus got shoved forward into my back again and again. It got to a point that Justin Sane took a moment to make sure we were ok. Yet, we seemed to be holding our own. So, thanks to Justin. That was really cool of you to check on us. Next, I want to thank the handful of punks behind us. I only got to talk to a few of you and thank you personally but you were all fucking awesome! What started as a few charging forward turned into some upstanding and badass people who helped push back against the pit. Finally, my biggest thanks goes to the Missus. I knew she was tough but now I have visual confirmation and it was something to behold. Watching her shove back the crowd almost effortlessly, constantly fighting against the pit. Let it be known now that she is the most hardcore person I know and I love her infinitely more for the furious strength she displayed. If you left the show with bruised ribs and were up in front, my bet is that she gave them to you.
Eventually, the show reached its inevitable end and each one of us was sore beyond belief. How the hell you get as sore as I was sitting in a damn wheelchair is beyond me. I wasn’t really involved in anything intense. I never got ran into, never got hit, and I watched someone get taken down by someone stage diving so I’m pretty sure I have no room to complain but I feel like I might as well had been in that pit that kept shoving farther forward. Though, the pain was only a small price for all the good that came from that night. I met many awesome people and I’m not talking about the ones on stage. The people around me who I shared my experiences with, the ones who saw us and helped pushed back the pit, they were great to talk with no matter how brief it was. I walked away with some epic memories and some small traces of evidence.
As usual, I try to keep up with my photo op tour and it came with a pleasant conversation with Justin Sane. It felt so welcoming to an extent that I really didn’t expect. I’m used to having some issue or hiccup whenever I decide to take on the world but Chris #2 didn’t lie, everyone was welcome. As we were starting to leave for the night after stopping for some and being stopped by others, one of the staff members walked by us and asked if we wanted a set list. Why the fuck not, right? It suddenly dawned on me to do something that I just hadn’t cared to do in years. I was going to get it signed. Usually I don’t do this because I don’t get much out of it personally. It means more to me to get a picture or two as a way to save the memory. Yet, this was another perfect opportunity that fell right into my lap. It was unfortunate that I only got three out of the four members of Anti-Flag, Justin Sane, Pat Thetic, and Chris #2 but it was still incredibly awesome to talk to them and hang around a bit.
It’s all still a bit strange to me yet I’m gobsmacked. Every so often I remember the young punk I was in high school who was screaming “You’ve Got To Die For The Government” at the top of his lungs and hair he only wished was like Joey Ramone’s while driving his wheelchair to the near by all you can eat pizza place to meet up with friends only to do the same all the way back home. Now I’ve popped my punk cherry and started finding my place in the various punk subtribes with cripple punk. With all this still fresh in my mind, I can’t wait to go to another show. Lucky for me, I have tickets to the Dead Kennedys show just around the corner.