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Pittsburgh punkers Anti-Flag return to Whistler April 30

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MEGAN THOMPSON/COURTESY OF ANTI-FLAG - AMERICAN SPRING Anti-Flag hits the stage at Garfinkel's on April 30. From left: Pat Thetic, Chris#2, Chris Head, Justin Sane.
  • Photo by Megan Thompson/Courtesy of Anti-Flag
  • AMERICAN SPRING Anti-Flag hits the stage at Garfinkel's on April 30. From left: Pat Thetic, Chris#2, Chris Head, Justin Sane.

It's been a full calendar year since Pittsburgh punk rockers Anti-Flag played in Whistler — so what's new in the world of anti-establishment rock?

"Absolutely nothing," laughs Justin Sane, the band's lead guitarist and singer/songwriter.

He's joking. The past year has been a whirlwind of international tour dates in support of the band's 10th full-length album American Spring, which came out in May 2015.

"Holy hell. It's like the last year feels like 10 years. So much has happened," Sane says, listing stops in Ukraine and Russia during the conflicts there last year as two of the highlights.

"What's really happened, I guess, is that I have a lot more inspiration, I have a lot more hope for the world," he adds.

"Because every time I travel and every time I get out there I meet people who are doing really amazing things. I meet people that are giving me hope, and I would say that for me that's one of the biggest things that happened."

What's also been happening in the 12 months between Anti-Flag's Whistler stops is a vitriolic, incendiary American election campaign, highlighted at times even by outlandish rhetoric and blatant bigotry.

"I just want to put it out there that I have a lot of faith that America won't elect Donald Trump," Sane says.

"That said, I think a big part of the reason that Donald Trump has been able to be a phenomena in America is because a lot of people in America have been left behind, especially as a result of the economic policies of this country, and certainly because of the political structure of this country."

You see the same thing happening on the left with supporters of Bernie Sanders, notes Sane.

"It's a sentiment that I've been feeling has been coming, and it is amazing to see it now come to this boiling point," he says.

Trump and Sanders supporters may have different values and ideas for how to move the country forward, but they're both feeding from a similar, growing disillusionment.

The Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Make America Great Again, Black Lives Matter — Americans of all stripes are growing restless, and where it's all heading, nobody knows for sure.

"As an artist and activist and somebody in a punk rock band, to me I find it to be a real fascinating time to be alive," Sane says.

"I really believe overall in the American people. I've seen so much positive change happen in America since the band started," he adds.

"People's attitudes towards racism, towards sexism, towards homophobia, since the time Anti-Flag started (in 1993), have progressed so much. I mean, I remember when we would talk about racism and people would yell out the N-word.

"One of the great things that I think punk rock has helped contribute to a greater society, is that it has been on the forefront of saying that inequality and bigotry has no place on our planet, has no place in our society, and that's one of the things that I'm really proud of with punk rock, is that it's been a leading voice and it's helped push that discussion in the mainstream."

When Anti-Flag hits the stage at Garfinkel's on April 30, fans can expect a healthy dose of the new album mixed in with all the old favourites.

"We've got a deep catalogue and people have favourite songs from various records, so we try to mix it up and hopefully play a song or two that people aren't expecting, and definitely play the hits," Sane says.

And for those looking for a way to make a difference on their own, Sane says he has two suggestions he always gives to people — become a vegetarian or go vegan, and join Amnesty International.

"Quite often we talk about all the fucked up things that are out there, and everything is terrible, but it's not terrible," Sane says.

"The power is within each of us to actually make a change, and what I love about those two suggestions is that those are things you can do without having to turn your life completely upside down."


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