The U.S. election is looming; the whole world is in disarray, currently centered in a pandemic of unprecedented proportion with no end in sight. And, while political punk rock has never been more important than it is right now, we can’t even go and appreciate the feeling of rattling eardrums, sore throats, and sweaty mosh pits at a live show.
Twenty-twenty sucks, dude. But at least now you can be distracted from your COVID depression for an hour or two thanks to Beyond Barricades: The Story of Anti-Flag.
Directed by Jon Nix and produced by TurnStyle Films, “Beyond Barricades” tells the story of the influential political punks from their humble beginnings to the present day.
It’s a bumpy ride, from Justin Sane and Pat’s childhood friendship and early days of learning to play their instruments, creating a role specifically for Chris Head, finding the perfect bass player in Chris #2 (despite him not being able to play at all when he first joined the band), to becoming one of the most important political bands ever and carrying on that title right up to today’s divided times.
Interviews with Tom Morello on how he fought for Anti-Flag to support Rage Against the Machine from the start, Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath on how his band and Against Me! gave Anti-Flag shit for signing to a major label, and others on just how fundamental this band has been in the political punk scene since their inception, give the documentary a great depth and emphasize its point.
While fans know all about Anti-Flag as a powerful and outspoken unit, the band themselves share personal stories that give a deep insight into each of them as individuals: Justin’s upbringing as a free-thinking, authority-questioning feminist, Pat’s life-long dedication to political activism, Chris Head’s creative nature, and Chris #2’s troubled youth, with a disdain for the police from a young age.
The documentary somehow manages to cram the insanely busy and eventful life of Anti-Flag into a neat, 90-minute package. Fat Mike turning down A New Kind of Army, eventually signing to Fat Wreck Chords, the events of 9/11 having their merch and records recalled and pulled from everywhere, death threats on the Mobilize tour, Rock Against Bush and Punk Voter, the destruction of their offices and everything in them through flooding, signing to RCA, right up to their most recent release, American Fall, and how it was influenced by the apocalyptic presidency of Donald Trump.
One of the best things about “Beyond Barricades” is that it’s very much an ‘in their own words’ documentary, something particularly important for a film about a band with so much to say. Pat Thetic has some great one-liner quotes. On leaving major label RCA he says it was like they’d “done a deal with the devil, spent his money, and told him to fuck off,” and his opinion on those who criticize Anti-Flag: “At this point, if you don’t like it, fuck off. I don’t care.” Justin Sane also has some positive, speech-worthy quotes: “Music changes people, and people go out and change the world”.
And, in case you don’t believe him, the end credits are accompanied by snippets of videos of people confirming the influence Anti-Flag and political punk rock has had on them, and how it’s encouraged them to make a difference.
Beyond Barricades is a short and snappy, yet in-depth look at a band who have remained passionate, focussed, and committed to their cause despite their road traveled being a rocky one. It’s a lesson in positivity through hardship, and much like their music encourages its audience to partake in, and take inspiration from their 30-plus years of, peaceful protest against injustice and corruption.
Photo courtesy of Anti-Flag
COVID SUCKS; LET’S PARTY (via livestream in our living rooms, of course)!