On the 27th of February in the year of our lord 2016, the greatest anarchopunk artists of our generation converged on West Hollywood, California at a dank, dusty, little venue for what would become one of the most amazing punk rock shows in the past decade. This is a written and pictorial memorialization of the the events that unfolded at The Troubadour that evening. Read it below!
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Derek Zanetti aka The Homeless Gospel Choir, took the stage and started playing promptly at seven to a sparse crowd. Although I’ve never met the man, I think he was pandering to me because he opened his set with a stellar version of one of my personal favorite anarcho-anthems, Wingnut Dishwasher Union’s “Fuck Shit Up” before starting in on some original songs. Prior to every song, the lone troubadour would say “This is a protest song”, humorously stating the obvious. The entire set continued on with this same kind of lighthearted sarcasm. Some of the songs, as the name of the act implies, are “gospel” themed but only in the sense that Stephen Colbert is a Conservative, see “With God on Our Side”. Even his acoustic, which was adorned with glittery stickers that spelled out “Up the Punx” wasn’t to be taken too seriously. While watching, I thought to myself that although it’s a slightly different approach, perhaps I’ve found something that can fill my Pat the Bunny void, now that he’s laid down his black flag. Derek’s interaction with the crowd was genuine and fun, he even opened up a Q&A session deviating from the typical banter. “What happened to your hand?” someone shouted noticing a visible injury. “Uh, I broke it punching someone. It hurt me way more than it hurt them. You should never punch anyone in the top of their head.” Near the end of the set which consisted of songs from his last two LPs, Luxury Problems and I used To Be So Young he took an opportunity to peddle his wares, saying “I have merch for sale over by the bar. But, you don’t need any of it. It’s just stuff”. Probably not the best sales technique but what can you expect from a anarcho folk act? The bumper stickers he was giving away with purchase (and free to DS Press! Thanks Derek!) that read “FoxNews: We Report Racist, Biased Bullshit For Entitled Rich Assholes” seemed to make up for his lack of salesmanship.
Next up was gypsy folk act, Blackbird Raum from Santa Cruz. This veteran DIY quintet certainly upped the crust factor of the show and set a good pace for the rest of the night. I’m not as familiar with this troupe as much as others, but the opening song started off slowly and quietly, with spoken word before fervently erupting into faster more typical crust folk style mid song. I’ve been to a fair share of folk shows but these guys have mastered their instruments far more than most other bands in the genre. The old, disheveled washboard, rustic banjos, the massive upright bass, the accordion, all expertly played at an extremely fast clip. As soon as they started in on the aggressive part, a minor circle pit broke out, smashing an unsuspecting kid with a 10 inch blue mohawk against the lip of the stage. I saw him turn around, in obvious pain, holding his side, looking confused. I saw the fear in his eyes. “Probably want to get outta there before the next couple acts come up” I thought to myself thinking ahead to the more brutal bands to come. The guy that smashed him later apologized but the kid was still pretty wary and opted to keep an eye on crowd instead of the performers on stage. The most memorable part of the entire set was a kick ass cover of Crass’ “Do They Owe Us a Living” Throughout their thirty minutes on stage, the female lead, Amelia asked for the sound booth to make corrections on occasion, giving them a cue to turn up a monitor or turn down a mic. I thought it amusing that not once did the washboard guy need any adjustments. Never the washboard guy! The most entertaining performance was provided by the banjo player, Caspian, as he savagely clogged around the stage, hopping up on the five foot floor monitors on multiple occasions almost threatening to jump into the audience. His energy was intense!
Right on time, Baltimore’s finest feminist hardcore band, War on Women took the stage as a slow African chant played. Just as the band took their positions they exploded suddenly into their opening song breaking the lull caused by the monotone, aboriginal chants. Maybe it was because the first two acts were folk and more acoustic, but in contrast this was loud as fuck. The floor instantly became alive, teeming with energy as the audience started a healthy looking pit. As always, lead singer Shawna Potter would take some time in between songs to make sure the crowd was being respectful. During one of the songs a kid lost his earring in the pit and the crowd actually parted to allow him to look for it. After the song, the lead vocalist made a point to call them out, sarcastically asking if they found what they were looking for to which their reply was no. “If anyone find this guys earring, turn it into the bar, don’t be an asshole!”. The highlight of the entire set for me was watching a confused girl in the crowd wonder why Shawna was pointing her out, screaming belligerently towards her “Fuck you! You little fucking cunt!” during a performance of “Meathead”. The verbal onslaught was actually impishly directed towards Leftover Crack guitarist Brad Logan who was hiding behind the poor, unsuspecting girl using her as a shield. Hardcore shows can tend to get out of hand at times, but this show was one of the most respectful I’ve been to in a long time. At one point, Shawna noticed that the pit was getting a little violent and jumped down into the belly of the beast to calm things down a little. “WHOA! This will be our last song if everyone can’t dance respectfully together.” After her warning, she remained down on the floor for a few more songs while the mid-sized crowd circled cautiously around her, a few concert goers stopping to dance with her while she sang and flailed around with them. I think she knew the kid with the blue mohawk was having a rough go of it as she took a second to rough him up a little near the end of the set, grabbing his shirt and shaking him around, screaming lyrics in his face. After performing about ten songs of off their newest self titled album, their frenetic set concluded,
By the time NYC skacore legends Leftöver Crack took the stage, the venue had reached capacity and the air had started to thicken and fell damp and warm. I was excited to catch this set as it was the first chance I’ve had to catch them post-Constructs of the State. The crackrock steady all-stars, with the remarkable Kate Coysh in tow, made sure to mix in plenty of older, more popular tunes with their newer songs during their hour long set. Near the end of War on Women’s set the stage diving had started but once LoC took the stage, it began in earnest. I think this show of all that I’ve been to might have set an all time record for stage diving, which is odd for the Troubadour. Security is usually very vocal and very aggressive when it comes to patrons getting on the stage. Two or three people each song would hop up on the stage, take a couple steps and leap into the crowd. From the moment the set started, the balcony (where the elderly and infirm sit) was rocking and vibrating from the fury coming from the stage. During a break between songs, Zack, from Blackbird Raum joined the ensemble to add his exceptional accordion for an exceptional version of “Soon We’ll Be Dead”. The highlight (probably of the entire night for me) by leaps and bounds, had to be their performance of “Operation M.O.V.E.” which rarely ever gets played live. Kate absolutely destroyed the lead vocals while STZA backed her up from his station behind the keyboard. I had to keep myself from jumping off the balcony to get in the pit, that song gets me fired up. Speaking of the pit, it had expectedly gotten pretty rowdy. I looked around to see how blue mohawk kid was faring and noticed a guy in a Choking Victim shirt standing guard, keeping the savage, roaring pit away from him in a stunning show of concern and community. I later asked the good samaritan why he stood there with his back to the band he obviously came to see to keep an eye on the kid. His response was as shockingly simple as it as refreshing to hear: “He looked scared, like he wasn’t having a good time. I just wanted him to have a better time.” Holy. Shit.
Where most shows would have climaxed with the LoC performance, we still had the headliners to look forward to! Anti-Flag took the stage slightly after their scheduled start time of 10:15. I’ve been lucky enough to see most of the other bands tonight, but for some reason, I had never caught these Steel City punks live before. The quartet got into position on stage, the speakers blasting that twisted ‘Merica song that was performed by those poor indoctrinated “Freedom Girls” at a Trump rally. Lead singer Justin Sane took his place on the lip of the stage, looking at times like he was levitating just above the audience on his perch that jutted out a little into the audience. “Los Angeles! Home of the circle pit!” he screamed into the mic, garnering a fever pitch reply from the swollen crowd. Fear instantly spread across the blue mohawk kid’s face as the set kicked off and the pit started swirling around, brushing dangerously by him at every pass.During one song, Chris #2 showed impressive physical acumen tossing his bass to a backup player just off stage, who caught it gracefully, and picked right up while Chris himself joined in on the stage diving fun. At one point a girl got on stage to take the leap and Justin put his arm around her asking “Whatcha doing up here? You wanna stage dive? Well, OK, let’s go ahead, because we gotta play a show, OK?” Sarcastic but maintaining the theme of the night, respectful and playful. He gave her a countdown and she rocketed off the stage into a pile of her peers. Of all the acts, A-F interacted with the crowd the most and didn’t preach at all. It seemed like they were more interested in just having fun and making sure everyone else did too. Between songs, Justin asked everyone to turn to their left and introduce themselves, “Put your arm around them. We’re all family here. Make a new friend tonight.”. I think everyone’s favorite part of the set was when STZA, Shawna Potter, Derek and others all joined the Pittsburgh punks on stage for an all-star version of “Die for Your Government”. A girl who had already stage dove about five times prior, went up for one last jump, ripping off her top, exposing an unflattering, plain, white granny bra before springing from the stage, splaying out across the awaiting arms of the audience. As the set concluded, Chris #2 and Pat Thetic cleared a space in the pit and started migrating the drum kit down to the floor for one last song. Chris #2 stood atop the bass drum while the furious crowd circled rapidly within a foot of them ecstatically.
*A huge thank you to the kind folks at A-F Records for getting us into this sold out show!