During the past two decades, no band has been quite as politically charged as Anti-Flag. The four punks from Pittsburgh have voiced their opinions on nearly every political issue and social injustice of the past handful of presidential terms, and they're not about to stop just yet.
Anti-Flag's debut album, Die for the Government, turns 20 this year, while one of their more popular efforts, For Blood and Empire, turns 10. In celebration, the band are going on a tour for both albums, as well as last year's American Spring, stopping at the Observatory on Feb. 25 for a punk-rock night that'll never be repeated.
"We're very proud of American Spring," says drummer Pat Thetic. "We're taking all three records and putting together a set instead of just playing one straight through. I think when you just play an album, you can get trapped in the time period of that album. Also, it's more fun for us to make a set from all three."
Of course, just because Anti-Flag love their new material doesn't mean they think any less of their older stuff. Outside of The Terror State (which they honored with an entire album tour in 2014), Die for the Government and For Blood and Empire are likely Anti-Flag's two biggest releases. Actually, there might not be an Anti-Flag now if it weren't for Die for the Government and the experience of recording it in "a guy's house, with the mic cables running up the laundry chute into his bedroom."
Thetic continues, "I still remember [recording Die for the Government] well. It means a lot to me, both as a guy who played it and as a guy who listened to it. Sadly, it's still just as relevant as ever. The details of the problems change, but the fear-mongering stays the same."
That's what makes Anti-Flag just as powerful all these years later. With Americans at the peak of their four-year cycle of political interest, Anti-Flag are as relevant as ever. The names and faces have changed, but how many other political records from the mid-'90s still hold true today—particularly in an election year? Naturally, a good portion of the band's career was spent hating on the Bush family, but the GOP is more like shooting conservative fish in a barrel for the Pittsburgh punks these days.
"[The primary race] is a clown show," Thetic says. "The Republicans are a mess, and it's just amazing to watch intelligent people try to rationalize their ridiculous positions on topics such as immigration and abortion rights."
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But because dissent alone doesn't always invoke much change, there is one candidate the band backs. "Bernie [Sanders] says a lot of things that make a lot of sense, but history shows that the person who makes the most sense doesn't always get into office," Thetic says. "Hopefully, he gets the votes he needs to make that happen."
Regardless of who wins the election, there are almost certainly still going to be political and social issues for Anti-Flag to write songs about—even if they have to focus more on the international scene. As the founding drummer sees it, "it's both good and bad that [the records] are still relevant" 20 years later. "The fact that we're still a band is amazing," Thetic says. "When we started, we weren't sure we would be a band for more than two weeks. It's pretty awesome to still be together over two decades later."
Anti-Flag perform with Leftover Crack, War On Women, Blackbird Raum and the Homeless Gospel Choir at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.observatoryoc.com. Thurs., Feb. 25, 7 p.m. $18. All ages.