Rise Against Bring Down Santa Barbara, CA 9-29-18 w/ AFI & Anti-Flag

Santa Barbara, California is already an ideal place to spend a beautiful September day. With the town’s charming seaside, lush vineyards, and quaint neighborhoods, it is no wonder people travel from far and wide to get in some relaxation in sunny Santa Barbara. However, that quiet seaside city was about to get rocked to its core when the Mourning in Amerika tour rolled through the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday, September 29th. Stacked with Punk veterans like Anti-Flag, AFI, and headliner Rise Against, it is no wonder that fans of all ages crowded into their seats early so as not to miss a minute of the action. Plus, that day was the penultimate tour date, as the two month long endeavor was about to wrap up the next night.

And truly, if anyone made the mistake of showing up late, then they missed a wild set from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Punk outfit Anti-Flag, who have been putting out political and powerful music since 1992. Anti-Flag took the stage just as the sun began to set over the Pacific Ocean, ready to shake up any unsuspecting concert-goer. The band seemed especially hyped to be celebrating their latest release, American Reckoning, released on September 28th.

Anyone who knows Anti-Flag is aware that the band do not pull any punches with their political messages. Vocalist/Guitarist Justin Sane, Bassist/Backing Vocalist Chris #2, Guitarist Chris Head, and Drummer Pat Thetic are all about promoting open dialogue and positivity in the Punk music scene. Kicking off their set with “The Press Corpse” and “Fuck Police Brutality,” dedicated to the dozens of black Americans killed by police. Now that fans were nice and riled up, the band continued by teaching the crowd how to sing along with “Turncoat,” and kept up their wild stage antics during  “All of the Poison, All of the Pain,” fan-favorite “This is the End (For You My Friend),” and “American Attraction.”

It was great to see an opening act get so much audience participation. Nearly the whole stadium was up on their feet for the band’s tight forty minute set, but that is no surprise for a band that has been kicking listeners into gear for over twenty years. On stage, the band have the energy of kids fresh on the scene, and their set was totally engaging from start to finish. The highlight of the set came as the band closed out their set with “Brandenburg Gate,” during which they casually relocated their drum and bass into the middle of the crowd to finish the song surrounded by fans. Before their set was through, Anti-Flag would have fans leaving with plenty of new friends – and maybe a new favorite band, too.

Next up were California natives AFI, who, like Anti-Flag, have been tearing up the scene for over twenty-five years now. Since coming together in 1991, AFI have since released ten LPs including their eponymous 2017 album, affectionately called The Blood Album by fans. To understand AFI, one must first acknowledge the band’s extremely dedicated fan-base known as The Despair Faction. Decked out in AFI t-shirts and tattoos, those brave enough to get a spot against the barricade could be heard chanting one of the band’s iconic album intros: “Through our bleeding, we are one.”

Chants evolved into raucous cheers as Drummer Adam Carson, Bassist Hunter Burgan, Guitarist Jade Puget, and Vocalist Davey Havok materialized on the stage, actually beginning their set with “Strength Through Wounding,” the song from which the chant originates. As soon as the set began, it seemed as though every eye in the stadium was on Havok. Never still for a moment, he and his bandmates demand your undivided attention with every second of their performance.

No two AFI sets are identical. With such an extensive catalogue to choose from, the band keeps things exciting by completely switching up their set on any given night, so fans were eagerly waiting to see what they would be served. The crowd went wild for the opening bass riff of “Miss Murder,” easily the band’s most recognizable track. Following that up with “So Beneath You,” deep cut “End Transmission,” and the explosive “Dancing Through Sunday.” Then, with Havok donning a pair of sunglasses tossed up onto the stage, AFI continued their stellar set with “Of Greetings and Goodbyes,” “17 Crimes,” and the beloved “Days of the Phoenix.” Through each song, Burgan and Puget jumped, kicked, spun, and flew across the stage without missing a note, all while Havok drew every ounce of energy from the crowd as he danced his way around, making use of every inch of space the stage had to offer.

Then, during the intensely dark “I Hope You Suffer,” Havok stepped from the stage and onto the welcoming hands of the crowd for his iconic “god-walk.” Held aloft by the audience, the crowd packed together to be a part of the moment. No matter how many times you see this spectacle, it never fails to thrill. Then, Havok took the stage once more as AFI closed out their set with the much-loved single “Girls Not Grey,” clearly pouring every ounce of energy left into this final performance.

As always, AFI blasted through their set with all the energy and passion of a headliner. The crowd was left stunned and smiling after the band exited the stage following a too-short set (an AFI set always feels to short, because fans never want it to end). Even though AFI put on a brilliant performance that could easily have closed out the evening, there was still plenty more in store thanks to Rise Against.

Despite being the headliner, Rise Against are actually the youngest band on this tour, having formed in “only” 1999. These Chicago punks have since taken over the scene as one of its most popular bands. Sure, the band has hundreds of millions of streams and command some serious radio play, but Rise Against is all about heart. Vocalist/Guitarist Tim McIlrath’s gritty vocals have been mobilizing politically-minded fans to action since Rise Against’s 2001 debut, The Unravelling. Now with eight LPs under their belt and a brand new compilation, The Ghost Note Symphonies, released back in July, the band were primed to enthrall eager fans with a career-spanning set.

Nearly all of Santa Barbara was shaking thanks to the roar of the crowd when McIlrath, Guitarist Zach Blair, Drummer Brandon Barnes, and Bassist Joe Principe took their spots on stage and started their set off strong with new single “The Violence.” Taking a moment to take in the energy radiating from the crowd, the band then continued their set with “Satellite,” “Survive,” and “I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore.” With extremely high production value, excellent lighting, and nearly flawless sound, every fan in the Bowl was on their feet and singing along to tracks like “House on Fire,” fan-favorite “Ready to Fall,” and “Collapse (Post-Amerika).”

The band’s explosive energy never-faltered as Blair and Principe made great use of the stage, with Blair being especially charismatic and engaging with the fans. Then, after oldies “Give It All,” “Blood-Red, White & Blue,” “Re-Education (Through Labor),” and “Savior,” it was time for the band to leave the stage.

Not long after, though, McIlrath returned to the stage alone with a guitar to play a few new versions of classic Rise Against tracks like “Voices Off Camera,” “Hero of War” (with a little help from his band mates at the end), and beloved “Swing Life Away.” This small acoustic set was a great interlude before the band returned to close out their set for a final encore of “Make It Stop (September’s Children),” “Bullshit,” and “Prayer for the Refugee.” Then the band took their final exit to the sounds of thunderous applause as the crowd began to head out into the California night after those three amazing performances.

When it was all said and done, although the Mourning in Amerika tour might have taken its final bow, hopefully each of these bands will be making the rounds again soon. Purely electric, each is one that cannot be missed!

Purchase American Reckoning:

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Purchase The Blood Album:

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Purchase The Ghost Note Symphonies

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Katherine SzaboAuthor posts

Katherine has been living for music since she was a young teen. Using her B.A. in English Literature and (almost complete) M.A. in English and Creative Writing, she hopes to combine her penchant for Punk music and live shows with her passion for writing in order to make exciting content for fellow fans. On the side, she writes about her two other passions: books and video games. 

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