BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Pittsburgh punk rockers Anti-Flag returned to Buffalo’s Rec Room on Friday night as part of their 2022 Fall Tour.

Frontman Justin Sane and drummer Pat Thetic spoke with News 4 prior to the sold-out show.

The pair discussed Anti-Flag’s forthcoming album, “Lies They Tell Our Children,” which is slated for a Jan. 6 release.

“It’s a concept record. We kind of looked at what are the critical issues that are facing the nation and also facing the world,” Sane said. “We decided to tackle those issues, sort of with the idea that if we could understand how we got to where we are, then we can work backwards and make things better.”

Thetic also acknowledged the release date for “Lies They Tell Our Children” being Jan. 6, two years after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, saying, “nothing is a coincidence in our world.”

The band’s last stop in Buffalo was also at Rec Room, during their 2021 North America tour. They discussed the impact the city has had on them.

“We grew up with bands like Snapcase, and things like that — bands that were from Buffalo, so Buffalo has had a rich music scene that we were very aware of when we were growing up,” Thetic said. “Actually, I have a personal connection to Buffalo also; my wife is from Buffalo.”

“We don’t hold it against her, but she is from Buffalo,” Sane teased. He acknowledged the band’s connection to the Nickel City, fondly recalling past performances, while also citing Buffalo’s Every Time I Die as a group they came up with.

The pair talked about what growing up in a blue-collar Rust Belt town meant to them and how it shaped their music.

“It had every effect on the band,” Sane said. “Even just having to do with the kind of name that we chose, because labor history and labor politics influenced everyone in the town. Pittsburgh was really in a great depression for about 20 years after the steel industry pulled out, and there wasn’t a lot of opportunity. What we saw was a lot of our friends turn to the military to get out of the town, or maybe get educated, because they really didn’t have a lot of other options.”

Sane continued, explaining how the band came together in opposition of war and military recruitment tactics, which also led to them landing on the name Anti-Flag.

“When the first Iraq war came around, we saw nationalism and flags being used to recruit people into the military. From our point of view, it was a war that was unjust and it was a war that was unnecessary,” he said. “We felt like patriotism was being exploited to get people to back a war that was unjust, and that kind of kicked off the whole band.”

Despite the increasing polarization of American politics over the last decade, Thetic said support for and backlash to Anti-Flag’s music has always been the same.

The tour concluded Saturday night in Toronto, with Friday’s concert marking the final stop in the U.S. The band will hit the road again at the beginning of February.

“We really are never not on tour,” Sane said, after which Thetic joked, “The last 25 years of being on tour have really been awesome, it’s nice to be done for two weeks before we go on tour again.”

Show review

Anti-Flag kicked off the show with “THE FIGHT OF OUR LIVES,” a single from “Lies They Tell Our Children.” A circle pit formed early in the set and the crowd was enthralled, as the band followed up with “The Press Corpse” off the band’s most popular album, “For Blood and Empire.” Anti-Flag immediately made their presence felt throughout the venue with two strong performances off the bat.

In the middle of “Drink, Drank, Punk,” the band paused to help a young fan find their glasses.

“That would’ve been bad. ‘My mom’s picking me up tonight and she’s gonna be pissed,'” Sane joked after the glasses were secured. Anti-Flag then picked up right where they left off.

A similar moment occurred when the band took an intentional pause during “This Machine Kills Fascists,” as they led the crowd in a breathing exercise, before quickly pivoting 180 degrees, with Chris Barker (also known as Chris No. 2) yelling, “Okay now circle pit the other way, one, two, f*** you.”

The band continued to encourage concert-goers to show respect for and take care of each other, as the crowd became more and more enveloped in the old-school punk rock, anti-establishment atmosphere Anti-Flag had built. The show only got better, and those in attendance continued to gain energy, which was immediately spent running around and crashing into one another.

“Care about one another, respect one another, if someone falls, help them up,” Chris No. 2 said.

Before starting up “1 Trillion Dollar$” and after some deliberation regarding which day of the week it was, Sane said that while he respects the fact that people practice their religions and go to church each week, his church is onstage.

“I don’t need to go to church on Sunday — I’m in church right f***ing now,” he said.

The set also included Anti-Flag’s punk medley, featuring “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash, “God Save the Queen” by Sex Pistols, “Rise Above” by Black Flag, “Fall Back Down” by Rancid, “If the Kids Are United” by Sham 69, “She” by Green Day, and “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones, circling back to The Clash to round out the mashup.

The show concluded with a flurry of classics, stringing together “This Is the End (For You My Friend,” “American Attraction,” and “Brandenburg Gate” to close it out, with a track of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” kicking on as the band walked off the stage, echoing Anti-Flag’s parting words, telling Buffalo “we love you” and asking the crowd to love each other.

The band did a good job of mixing in songs old and new, playing music from the albums “American Spring,” “American Fall,” “Die For the Government,” “The General Strike,” “The Terror State,” “Underground Network,” and “20/20 Vision.”

Prior to Anti-Flag taking the stage, the show began with an electric performance from punk band Plasmid, who share Pittsburgh roots with Anti-Flag. Toronto natives Cancer Bats then took the stage for a 13-song set that had many in the crowd head-banging along. Cancer Bats’ set also included shouts-out to Cheektowaga, Amherst, Williamsville, Tonawanda, North Tonawanda, and “the lesser-known East Tonawanda.”

Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.