The chorus of "The Violence"—"Are we not good enough? / Are we not brave enough? / To become something greater / Than the violence in our nature"—captured the night's dichotomies perfectly. In true punk rock and metalhead spirit, Rise Against and its openers, AFI and Anti-Flag, savagely attacked their instruments in a call for peace and justice, in essence answering the question posed in "The Violence" with a wall-shaking "yes."
On the group's Facebook page, Rise Against lead singer Tim McIlrath wrote, "I want to create dangerous spaces where misogyny can't exist, where xenophobia can't exist," and Anti-Flag kicked off the night with a stab at doing just that.
"Let's sing so loud we strike fear into every racist, homophobe, transphobe—," screamed Anti-Flag singer/bassist Chris Barker during its opening set, continuing to list off the enemies of nearly every marginalized community and finishing the rant with, "All the way from here to that motherf***er in the White House, Donald Trump!"
- Lex Nelson
- Half of the crowd raised its middle fingers with Anti-Flag for the song "F*** Police Brutality."
The reaction to Anti-Flag's rhetoric was mixed, with half of the crowd happily raising a forest of middle fingers and the other half standing cross-armed and reserved, greeting the band with hard stares. When AFI lead singer Davey Havok appeared though, the no-man's land vanished in a rush of bodies surging toward the stage.
That wasn't a surprise, as "We're here for AFI," was a common refrain rippling through the pre-show crowd.
- Laine Gavin
- AFI lead singer Davey Havok lead the band in old hits and new tracks.
In contrast to Anti-Flag, AFI stayed away from politics, sticking purely to the music—a mix of old hits like "Love Like Winter" and "Miss Murder," and newer tracks like "17 Crimes." The set acted like a straight shot of adrenaline, priming the crowd for Rise Against's performance, which married its two opening band's M.O.s to craft a message everyone in the audience could swallow.
Among the set's highlights were a rendition of "I Don't Want to Be Here Anymore"—a breakup letter to America that McIlrath said was a nod to Anti-Flag, whose songs are "ever important, and getting more important every day." Spotlights lit a huge red-and-white-striped banner and blue strobes flashed as he sang, giving the impression that the band was jamming right at the heart of an American flag.
Songs like those were mixed with pieces like "Help is on the Way," which McIlrath said he wrote as a reaction to Hurricane Katrina, and dedicated to those on the east coast who bore the brunt of Tropical Storm Florence.
Yet one of the best crowd reactions came to this shouted line, which was purely old-school punk:
"Sometimes Rise Against plays venues with way too many seats on the floor," McIlrath said early in the set. "Seats and sunshine are the enemy of a good show in my opinion—so here we are!"
Considering the band's packed touring schedule, it likely won't be long before it's back.