There’s a good chance that everyone who is visiting this site is probably just here to look at pictures of Davey Havok of AFI. I get it. He’s a stud. But if you’re willing to hold off for just a second and join me in this journey through the Mourning in Amerika tour, I swear it’ll be worth it. You see, this tour represents everything that is good in music. Music, like most forms of art, is an expression of emotion. For me, music has always been a driving force in motivating me or calming me, giving me direction or comfort when I feel lost and confused, or joining in with me during celebration. And although I’d like to believe that every artist has the understanding and awareness of responsibility surrounding their influence – I find that within the punk scene, there is an almost obligation to incite change and inspire everyone to use their voices. And with this exact mindset, I knew I had to attend the Mourning in Amerika Tour, headlined by Rise Against with support from AFI (A Fire Inside) and Anti-Flag. It’s no lie that our nation at this particular moment is a bit divided. Many feel like we are living in some dark times, but the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island was about to feel a surge of light. And it all started with Anti-Flag.
Anti-Flag are staples in the punk scene. These Pittsburg natives have never shied away from lending their voices or expressing their opinions. Having released their newest album American Fall in November 2017, it’s amazing to think that the band formed nearly 30 years ago. Although there’s been some breaks and line-up changes, they’ve still managed to retain two original members, Justin Sane (vocals) and Pat Thetic (drums). With the addition of Chris Head (guitar) and Chris Barker (bass) who is lovingly known as Chris#2 almost 20 years ago, these punk rockers have consistently stood up for what they believed it. Such was evident when Chris#2 took to the mic and amped up the crowd saying “ladies and gentleman, we will warm this fucker up, and we will let them know that those that perpetrate racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia, bigotry of any kind are not fucking welcome in our fucking scene, okay!? It starts with your beautiful voices…” as they erupted into “All of the Poison, All of the Pain” from their 2015 album American Spring. The crowd was deafening as the energy surged and a mosh pit formed. Much of their set was intertwined with similar sentiments, calling on everyone to use their voice against injustices and to pick each other up, both within society and within the pit. Justin, Chris and Chris#2 used the entire stage, with Chris#2 doing multiple signature jumps from speakers, the drum set and most impressively from the ground. They played crowd favorites “Turncoat” from their 2003 album The Terror State and “You’ve Got to Die for the Government” from their 1996 album Die for the Government. The highlight of their set was definitely when Pat’s drum set was disassembled and then reassembled in the crowd. Chris#2 than joined him in the pit as they belted out “Brandenburg Gate” off of their newest album.
The Press Corpse / Fuck Police Brutality / Turncoat / All of the Poison, All of the Pain / Trouble Follows Me / This is the End (For You My Friend) / American Attraction / You’ve Got to Die for the Government / Brandenburg Gate
Next up was AFI, short for A Fire Inside, and although they are the least politically charged group of the night, they were definitely a crowd favorite. They have amassed a cult following like none I have ever seen. Having formed in 1991 by front man Davey Havok and drummer Adam Carson, the band has solidified a lineup with bassist Hunter Burgan and guitarist Jade Puget since 1998. The energy before the group took the stage was intense, with people chanting “through our bleeding, we are one”. Unbeknownst to me, this was in reference to their song “Strength through Wounding” which opens the same way. And while AFI is known for switching up their set lists, the crowd was in for a treat as they burst onto stage and opened with the songs beginning notes. As Davey Havok chimed in with his vocals, the crowd went crazy. And it was a whirlwind for the next 35 minutes. They seamlessly transitioned into their hit “Girl’s Not Grey” from their 2003 album Sing the Sorrow. Burgan and Puget played to the crowd, swapping places side stage almost every song. Havok would climb onto his speaker cabinet as if he was preaching to his congregation. I knew their more popular songs but I was thoroughly impressed with how tight they sounded. Even those I didn’t know and felt slightly off course for their normal sound still screamed AFI underneath. Havok’s ability to connect with the crowd is an amazing thing to watch, as he’s not afraid to get up close and personal. In this shows instance, he climbed off the stage multiple times onto a box in the pit to lean into the crowd and sing along. They ended the night with two massive hits, “Silver and Cold” from Sing the Sorrow and “Miss Murder” from their 2006 album Decemberundergroud. All in all, they played an impressive 10 songs from 6 of their albums.
Strength Through Wounding / Girl’s Not Grey / Love Like Winter / Paper Airplanes / Snow Cats / Wester / Bleed Black / I Hope You Suffer / Silver and Cold / Miss Murder
Finally it was time for Rise Against. Although all three of the bands have headlined multiple tours themselves, it was in honor of Rise Against's 2017 album Wolves, specifically the track "Mourning in Amerika", that this tour was born from. The idealization off of this track is was sparked these bands to get their voices heard. Rise against formed in 1999, the band comprising now of Tim McIlrath (vocals), Zach Blair (guitar), Joe Principe (bass) and Brandon Barnes (drums). The band actively promotes animal rights and all the members, excluding Barnes, are straight edge, PETA supporters and vegans. It's safe to say that they are socially conscience. They've managed to create 8 studio albums, all of which have garnered fan and critic acclaim. The amphitheater was packed at this point, and anyone that had a seated ticket was on their feet. McIlrath has a way of commanding the stage, but it is the cohesiveness of the band that really stands out. While the show might not feel as hectic as the other two, it's a welcomed step back to just some more traditional punk rock and hardcore. Principe and Blair impressively swapped sides and McIlrath has the respect-your-dad presence, but they're not about theatrics. They're about making good music and getting their voices heard. They're not afraid to strip it down, as they did with a interim acoustic set in the middle of their show. But they quickly came back into fast paced antics with "Make It Stop (September's Children)" plus "Mourning in Amerika and "Prayer of the "Refugee" to close out the night.
What was my highlight of Rise Against's set? A track off of their deluxe version of their new album is titled "Megaphone". McIlrath repeats throughout the song "now speak up, you are not alone, you are the megaphone". The song is just as powerful as the music video. Right before they played this song they addressed the audience. I'll leave you with Tim's words:
We're living in a world where ideas like racism are given traction. Where ideas like sexism have reared their ugly heads and have gained momentum. We live in a weird time where history can be turned the wrong fucking way. Now, I come out here and I see so many faces, so many people. I see the look in your eyes. I hear the sound in your voice. I feel the electricity in the air. And the honest truth... it gives me hope. Because we hope for tomorrow. We hope for the future. Next week. Next month. Next year. It gives me hope that we are all putting our hands on the steering wheel of history and turning that mother fucker the way we want it to go. We're gonna play a song right now. This song is not just about that hope. Because hope, ladies and gentlemen. Hope, brothers and sisters, is not enough. It's not enough to simply cross your fingers and hope tomorrow is brighter and less dark than today. You've got to use your voices. You've got to use your voice. You've got to speak out. We need action. We need all of you. We need you to be the megaphone.
The Violence / Satellite / Survive / I Don't Want to Be Here Anymore / House on Fire / Ready to Fall / Help Is on the Way / Megaphone / Give It All / Blood-Red, White & Blue / Re-Education (Through Labor) / Savior
Acoustic: Voices Off Camera / People Live Here / Hero of War / Swing Life Away
Encore: Make It Stop (September's Children) / Mourning in Amerika / Prayer of the Refugee