Twenty Years Later

Twenty Years, two decades, those national crowds have been listening and watching both Anti-Flag and Reel Big Fish. That’s two thirds of my life they’ve been in my life, although my listening to either didn’t start until about two years after that listening to Ska Punk on the old Edge 106.3. Turning sixteen with a shiny new driver’s license, I filled that void of a quiet car with the local radio airwaves. This tour, while not an expected combination of headliners, brought me great excitement to watch two favorite bands in one location.

Right off the bat, the guys in Pkew Pkew Pkew were a great surprise. First, they are pronounced like that noise you make when you make your finger gun and shoot invisible targets. Second, while disappointed that we didn’t have Direct Hit! on our leg of the tour, these guys are just as excellent a band to watch. The rockers from Canada brought the energy and the excitement in what I watched of their set. I wasn’t able to make it out from backstage for their set unfortunately, but even from the side of the stage they were fun to watch. Afterwards I picked up their vinyl, and told them how excellent the set was. I hope they make a return trip here soon.

Following them was the reggae rockers of Ballyhoo! This was the third time catching them, and they are always a treat to watch. They lean more to the reggae side, but they certainly have their rock and punk influences in the songs and how they perform on stage. It feels sometimes like the bands they play with dictate the setlist. My first time watching Ballyhoo! had a little more rock to their set while the second time they headlined their tour and it was a little more reggae leaning. Tonight was more of the rock, and a bit of fun to watch.

Next up was Anti-Flag, the first of the two co-headliners, celebrating twenty years of the album “Die For The Government.”  As confessed above, I didn’t listen to them until I was a driver two years after, and my first Anti-Flag album purchase started with “The Terror State.” I have since always enjoyed their music, picking up their entire catalog since then. I always love watching Anti-Flag, and they are on my list of bands I want to get inked on my right arm.

In addition, a band where they are approachable and nice when you get the chance to meet them goes a long way. Since I had the opportunity to be back stage thanks to my amazing friend, JT Trick, it gave me a chance to talk to Pat, drums, while back there. I brought up the first time I met him at a Warped Tour, and we talked about the Xbox 360 game Crackdown, making it apparent it has been about nine or ten years since I first met them. No matter, I was excited to be able to watch Anti-Flag from backstage for the first time. I got to see Chris #2’s leaps in the air and Justin spinning time to time while playing guitar from that angle.

The set itself was awesome, as they played through the entire “Die For The Government” album. It being an Anti-Flag set meant there was no way I was going to hang backstage the entire set. Standing still is not an option for watching Anti-Flag, so I took in part of their set from the pit. Based on the bruise I felt this morning, that included at least an elbow to the head. I did return for the last third of the set to the side, and got a handshake from Justin as he asked the crowd to hug a stranger. They did venture into more than just the twenty year old album including the additions “Turncoat” and “Brandenburg Gate” in their set. I don’t know if there is ever a time I don’t enjoy an Anti-Flag set, tonight was no different.

Of course, this was the celebration of another twenty year old album from the excellent guys in Reel Big Fish. “Turn the Radio Off” which features some of the most iconic, known songs for Reel Big Fish with “Beer,” “Sell Out,” and, in part thanks to the many versions gag at most of their shows, “S.R.” I have a funny anecdote from this album too, that includes listening to it in a car that was known for electrical shorts and at the end of the album the radio actually turned off. At first, I thought it was a cool feature they put on the CD until I listened to it again through and it looped to track 1.

Tonight’s set was just as fun as previous times I’ve seen them. Although they were down a man for this set, because unfortunately Billy Kottage, trombone, had a funeral to attend. My condolences go out to him. The set itself wasn’t dampened by him missing though, as they played through the entire “Turn the Radio Off” album while intentionally skipping over a track that many love to play later in the set. Although, I have seen enough Reel Big Fish sets that I can be an expert on some of normal things to occur on a set including the gag to play the song they missed starting with covering part of Mighty Mighty Bosstones, which they did at the Oktoberfest too. Though, as Aaron Barrett said on their live album, “it never gets old.”

Staying still for a Reel Big Fish set is just as hard as Anti-Flag, although for them it is more the urge to dance and skank. I started off side stage for the set, which included getting to pet Aaron and Krysta’s dog Walter who walked over to me early in the set. I would venture down to the pit, which really didn’t give me much room for skanking as much as I would have liked. Thus I returned to the side of the stage, to sing along, skank, and twice kind of step on a dude’s foot while skanking. It was one of the best times and shows I’ve been to.

Of course, if you follow me, you already know that wasn’t the end of my night and I went to the Yucca Tap Room to catch We Were Stereo. This was the second night to celebrate Will Anderson’s birthday, which I am thankful for all the amazing music he has helped bring through Phoenix for years. We Were Stereo played an energized set, and was awesome to watch. It was mostly punk, with a little slower alternative influences in a couple songs.They were freaking fun to watch.

Then a cool surprise, as their lead singer left the stage, and Dennis Welch, of Sam the Butcher, got up for an amazing three song set as The Revenge for Will. The last song had Will showing us his excellent punk talents on vocals for a superb finish to my already great night. Once again, one more happy birthday to Will. I am so happy I was able to catch that, and what a grand Saturday night it was.

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