Words & Photos by Alicia Armijo
Punk rock kings, Rise Against, returned to Austin last Tuesday for a memorable, sold-out stop at Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater on their international “Mourning in Amerika Tour.” The band was supported by their long-time friends and fellow-punk rockers, AFI and Anti-Flag. This trio collectively covered a wide range of the punk-rock spectrum—from politically-charged activist-punk to horror punk to pop punk—and gave fans energetic and absolutely riveting performances from start to finish.
Launching into an evening of pure punk rock, Anti-Flag opened the show and said that they would gladly take on the “…responsibility to get this night fuckin’ started.” Unquestionably, they succeeded. With the sun still in the sky, the band generated an impressive and enduring mosh-pit that enveloped the venue. It certainly had me curious how they could pull in so many fans to get roughed up so early in the night and with so many amazing acts still to come! Still, it was clear that the band had more in mind for inspiring such raucousness. Truly, the band spoke to the heart of their fans in all corners of the venue, encouraging them to “dance away the bullshit, the bigotry, and the hate” that’s been brewing in America during the Trump administration. The band surely set the bar high for acts to follow by taking to the mosh pit—with their drumkit and all—and fully submerging themselves in the chaotic, yet exultant energy that they created with their fans.
Following these punk-activists, AFI held nothing back for a well-rounded, powerhouse set. Frontman, Davey Havok’s stage presence itself was striking and memorable. He had the venue screaming along to fan-favorites as “Girls Not Grey” and “Miss Murder” while making impressive leaps across the stage and, at times, seeming to float atop the oscillating rhythms in their sea of fans. While AFI may not have been the most “punk-rock” band on the bill, they humorously acknowledged that they were punks once and proceeded to indulge their die-hard fans with classics from their 90’s albums, Very Proud of Ya and Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes.
For the hotly awaited final act of the night, Rise Against, absolutely thrived on stage here in Austin. Noting the incredible humidity in the air, singer, and guitarist, Tim McIlrath noted how much he loved it since our steamy weather reminded him so much of his hometown, Chicago. The band delivered a hit-packed set, rife with beautiful moments of genuine connection between the band and the fans who came near and far to live this Tuesday night to the fullest. Before launching into “Ready to Fall,” McIlrath acknowledged his love for places like Austin, Texas, recognizing that “…not everywhere we play do we feel like we belong like we’re in a city where punk rock should happen… this place strikes me as the kind of place where this was supposed to happen.” For the well-seasoned music-lovers in this booming music city, it is resonating moments like these that set bands like Rise Against apart from other bands that play here. Not only did Rise Against create a series of memorable, upbeat moments honoring the place in which they played, they also paid homage to the day on which the event took place: September 11th, the day of the terrorist attacks against the United States. In kindness and in remembering, McIlrath dedicated “Blood Red, White and Blue” to “…all the citizens who lost their lives on this day 17 years ago.” This was a beautiful and powerful contribution to their set and the night overall.
This stop of the “Mourning in Amerika Tour” created the perfect combination of nostalgia, zeal, and community-love among this packed house of punk-rock junkies. It is surely these mindful moments combined with excellent musicianship that have made Rise Against, AFI, and Anti-Flag enduring forces in the ever-evolving world of punk rock music.