Anti-Flag + Leftover Crack + War on Women + Blackbird Raum + The Homeless Gospel Choir @ El Corazon – March 4th 2016

Thanks to a slow bus I arrived at El Corazon after The Homeless Gospel Choir has started his set. I made my way to bar to the side of the stage to enjoy a beer and take in the anxious energy filled acoustic styling of Derek Zanetti, the sole member of the band. There’s a vulnerability to Derek’s music that’s refreshing and translates well live. His music is meant to be heard live, while it’s great on record, the humor is more prevalent live. Whether it be introducing every song as a protest song or making side comments during songs to the front row. The Homeless Gospel Choir is worth checking out, especially if you are in the mood for some great Woody Guthrie inspired acoustic punk. As Derek was leaving the stage a father and his, what looked like seven year old, son were congratulating him on a great set. The little boy with long hair just wanted to say hello, give Derek a high five and get a hug, all of which he was happy to provide.

While The Homeless Gospel Choir was a funny, engaging and raw,  Blackbird Raum was haunting and beautiful. This quintet from Santa Cruz, CA takes the folk punk genre to its most bare bones state. Comprised of a metal guitar, upright bass, accordion, banjo and washboard, the music has a spooky campfire quality that any good stripped down outfit should. When the lyrical themes of their music tend to focus on the darker side of society and the ramifications of actions, the haunting tone fits perfectly.

War on Women is the epitome of justified anger. A much needed injection of the new era of pissed off punk rock that isn’t reciting the same message that every other punk band is saying. Singer Shawna Potter is a force on stage, getting in people’s faces and throwing herself around the stage. The music is aggressive and and the the lyrics take no prisoners. With songs like “Say It” a blunt criticism of rape culture and “YouTube Comments”, which uses actual misogynistic comments from their video for “Effemimania”, which are an example of why the internet can be a vile place. If you like loud, fast punk that is in your face and doesn’t hold back in the intensity or lyrics, listen to War on Women and go see them live.

Leftover Crack is a result of a beautiful fling between Napalm Death, Operation Ivy and Subhumans one night in a dumpster. They can go from  straight death metal song into a poppy ska song. This was on display in full force, with Scott Sturgeon, AKA Stza Crack, coherent and focused, losing himself in the music. Many things have been said about Stza over the years, none of which can be that he doesn’t invest himself completely into his music. His sincerity is true, whether you agree with his views is a whole other story. The entire band was on point, with new members Chris and Donny, fitting in perfectly with Brad and Alec. Everybody in the audience was into it, the customary stage divers included. The crowd was so into the set that halfway through I had forgotten that they weren’t the headliners. With the band in such great form and their long awaited follow up to Fuck World Trade, Constructs of the State, less than a year old I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities to see them.

The lights dropped and Sarah Palin’s nauseating voice came over the PA, it was the loop from when she gave her approval speech for Donald Trump for president. This was followed by the creepy, now infamous, theme song from a Trump Rally in Florida. And with that Anti-Flag took the stage, whipping the audience into a frenzy. Everyone was moving and jumping, so much so that the entire floor was shaking, bodies flying and slam dancing. While Leftover Crack is nihilistic, Anti-Flag would be optimistic, based on how they present their music they believe that things can change for the better. The stance of Anti-Flag has always been that there are people who are shitheads, but don’t let them get you down. Some have ridiculed the band for its optimistic idealism, but in a world where Donald Trump is leading a primary to be a candidate for the President of the United States, maybe that soul crushing reality has to be balanced out by 90 minutes of punk rock played by four people who want nothing more than the world to be a better place. While it’s easy to be jaded, that can change when you see a seven year old boy, with long hair, pumping his fist from on top of his father’s shoulder, singing along to songs hoping for more. And when the band asks everyone to extend their hand, and shake their neighbor’s, the child shoots his tiny hand out at mine without hesitation and full of hope, I don’t fear for the future. This band is a one that brings out the best in people and exemplifies the positive aspects of punk. They are loud, fast and pissed, but inviting and inclusive, giving a place for those without one to feel welcome. That is what punk means to me, a place for the weird and sometime unwelcome to feel welcomed. Just don’t be an asshole.

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