Anti-Flag’s Politics Take Center Stage
Performing in Russia last week, the U.S. punk band’s concert was as much a political rally as a performance.
Published: July 2, 2014 (Issue # 1818)
Amid no-shows, bans and cancellations — Marilyn Manson just had his concert banned in Novosibirsk and canceled due to a hoax bomb threat in Moscow — Anti-Flag, one of the most vocally political U.S. punk bands, performed three concerts in Russia last week.
In St. Petersburg, the band’s frontman Jason Sane denounced homophobia, nationalism and sexism to the cheers of hundreds of fans.
With the band’s short speeches and songs like “No More Dead,” “Die for the Government” and “Power to the Peaceful,” Anti-Flag, who take part in or perform at protests, effectively turned the show into a political rally.
In Moscow, the band, which spoke out in defense of the imprisoned Pussy Riot members two years earlier, supported the people jailed in Moscow over the May 6, 2012 anti-Kremlin protest on Bolotnaya Square by having their photo taken with the poster “Free Bolotnaya prisoners.”
Ahead of their local concert, The St. Petersburg Times sat with drummer Pat Thetic, who co-founded Anti-Flag with Sane in 1993.
Q: Are you the right band to talk about the connection between art, music and politics?
A: Well, we are a band that blends those things together. We are not the only band in the world, but we are very passionate about it. Because I think every revolution has a soundtrack, and I think that music has the power to inspire people to make change. I don’t think music changes things on its own, but music inspires people and people make change.
Q: Where did the connection come from?
A: We come from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh has a history of union, and in the late 1800s there was a lot of steel production in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so there was a lot of union. A lot of immigrant workers came in and unionized and fought against the steel owners, and the steel owners beat them down. So in Pittsburgh there is a strong union tradition of “we need to stick together and work towards a common goal.” That leftist idea of union and bringing people together to change things has always been part of Pittsburgh, which then came into our music.
Q: How did you come up with the name for the band?
A: Justin came up with it. In the late 1980s-early 90s, there was this weird time in the history of punk rock music when people would say “pledge allegiance to the flag” and had this really nationalist thing going on. And we thought it was really stupid, because we thought that punk rock music was supposed to be an anti-establishment music, and being proud of Americans and stuff like that we thought was very establishment and we thought it was very stupid, and we wanted to make a statement against that. So we came up with idea of Anti-Flag.
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