The much-anticipated Anti-Flag tour came to the Constellation Room inside the Observatory in Santa Ana, Tuesday night. Originally intended for May of 2020 with openers Bad Cop/Bad Cop and Grumpster, the tour was postponed due to COVID-19. However, in June of this year as cases went down and bands began planning shows, Anti-Flag announced that they would start rescheduling their tour. While that was exciting news, due to scheduling conflicts, Bad Cop/Bad Cop was no longer able to join the first leg of the tour on the western half. The good news for punk bands is Grumpster was still on the lineup, with added support from Dog Party and Oxymorrons.
Opening the night was Oxymorrons, hailing from New York. They were the only band I was unfamiliar with and had not seen live. It was only one song in before they had the entire crowd bobbing their heads and jumping around. Featuring two lead vocalists, their sound is a well-done mixture of hip-hop and rock. But, before you write them off as nu-metal, they are closer to the Roots than Korn, featuring legitimate rappers supported by hard rock music.
Next up was Oakland’s Grumpster. Fronted by lead vocalist Falyn Walsh, the Northern California four piece kicked off a set with heavy, reverberating bass reminiscent of ‘90s grunge like the Muffs. The set featured moody songs that often began slow, lulling you to a false sense of tranquility, before abruptly switching into hi-speed punk, which many took a cue to begin moshing. “Underwhelmed” began with a light strumming by guitarist, Lalo Gonzalez Deetz, until a thunderous drumroll by Noel Agante torpedoes the rest of the band into a flurry, eventually busting his snare drumhead.
As soon as they were done setting up, Sacramento’s Dog Party immediately launched into “G Diddy,” an instrumental song from their 2015 album, “Vol. 4.” The two-piece consists of sister Gwendolyn Giles on guitar and co-lead vocals and Lucy Giles on drums and co-lead vocals. In between songs, Gwendolyn announced that her sister graduated from Cal State Long Beach last year, during the pandemic. Lucy stated that she studied art and was actually selling a few pieces at the merch table that night. The band played “Best Friend” before concluding their set with fan favorite, “Whoa.”
I am committed to the principle that violence is never justified as a means of ameliorating a grievance.
Justin Cathal Geever | Anti Flag
As the crew began setting up Anti-Flag’s gear, they hung up a large banner on the back curtain of a fist punching and smashing a swastika to a roar of cheers from the crowd. The Pittsburgh band released their album, “20/20 Vision” in January 2020 and had announced a nationwide tour to back it. Since the pandemic changed their plans, these dates were the first time the band got a chance to play new songs in front of a live audience.
“Turncoat! Killer! Liar! Thief!” snarled guitarist and vocalist, Justin Sane, as the crowd chanted back each lyric echoing throughout the entire building. A circle pit immediately began enveloping anyone nearby, into a flurry of fists and elbows. Although an Anti-Flag pit can get pretty ferocious and wild at times, bassist and vocalist, Chris #2 reminded everyone the group’s now-famous mantra throughout the night: “Someone falls down, pick them up!” This is a band that doesn’t just chant it, but lives it as at one point, #2 stopped the show, concerned because someone was signaling that a fan was down and possibly hurt. In a comedic turn, what was thought to be an injured bystander turned out to be someone just bent over to tie their shoes, to the band’s relief. Before launching into “Fuck Police Brutality,” one of their staples, #2 dedicated the anthem to the memories of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, George Floyd, “and the countless list of our brothers and sisters gunned down by unjust justice systems.”
Before ending the night, #2 took off his bass and handed it to Aria Hurtado, whom he introduced to the crowd from the band Hoity Toity. Initially, I was a bit let down that he would not be playing on “The Press Corpse,” as this is one of my favorite songs. But this slight disappointment lasted all of about two seconds as Hurtado immediately impressed me with her incredible, impressive playing and she not only kept up with but helped lead the band into a fantastic rendition of the song, backed up by #2 on vocals. Although there was no encore for the night, nearly 20 songs later the band closed their set with the anti-war anthem “Die for the Government,” leaving the crowd in a frenzied heap of sweaty masses. When all was said and done, you were left feeling as though Anti-Flag had anticipated these shows just as much as the crowd did.