After touring Canada with Anti-Flag, Billy Talent, and Moneen earlier this year, Rise Against is gracing our country with another full-length tour that sold out before many people even thought about getting tickets. Even with two shows scheduled to cater to the large Calgary punk crowd, I had to settle for Edmonton and drive a good six hours to get there. But no worries . . . Edmonton had the beer gardens, after all.
The doors opened at 6 at Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre and it took a good half an hour to make your way from the entrance, past dodgy security guards, and into the auditorium. Once downstairs, I got the lay of the land and it immediately became apparent that the biggest drawback to an indoor concert is that smokers are perennially hovering by the doors to be let out . . . clearly not ideal for them (or, let’s face it, for me).
After finally being allowed outside onto the balcony for cigarettes, we took our places on round cement benches and perched along the railing to light up; the perfect opportunity to people-watch. It is moments like these that I have at every punk show, wondering how many of these people I have seen at the Warped Tour or at Bad Religion. I’m certain there is at least a handful of people who are present at every show I go to, so a big shout out goes to all of them, especially the guy who always wears the leather Misfits jacket and spikes his hair about a foot high. I love it when people dress up.
It was later than expected when a band finally hit the stage, and given that the headliner wasn’t expected for another three sets after the first, I of course hit the beer gardens with my fellow fans. Despite there being nowhere to sit down or congregate in the barricaded area (and also because of the blatant lack of Kokanee), I took to drinking Coors and wandering around to the sounds of the Holy Roman Empire, Comeback Kid, and Silverstein.
The first had a very Paramore-like presence, with a female on lead vocals and some punkish vibes coming from the band. Not my favourite, but I am really of the opinion that if a girl takes on punk vocals she needs to personify Brodie Dalle (of the Distillers) to pull it off. After a short first set, Comeback Kid hit the stage and started to shake up the crowd a bit more. I have to say, I liked these guys. They played a hard-edged set, and while the lyrics eluded me completely, I still will make an effort to pick up an album when I next have the chance. Oddly, I’ve seen the band name floating around MySpace for some time, so of all the warm-up bands, Comeback Kid is the only one I had heard of prior to the show. If you are into Billy Talent I suggest you check them out.
The last band to take the stage before the long-awaited headliners was Silverstein; these guys hadn’t cracked their way into my consciousness before now but apparently they had a big fan base in Edmonton that night. The pit swelled in size, the crowd got louder, and the lights in the auditorium were finally put out in favour of stage illumination. Again, the set was fairly punk, but unlike their stage predecessors the vocalist was clear and the band came out sounding a bit like Rise Against would if Chris #2 from Anti-Flag took the lead vocals. Silverstein was a great band and they put on an awesome show that their fans absolutely loved.
Now, the problem with the beer gardens is invariably that one drinks excessively, decides to go out for a smoke at a random moment, and then misses the opening song of the band they have actually come to see. It is a widespread problem, I understand. At any rate, after chatting through the previous set with a huge and drunken fan of Silverstein (and if you are out there, Kyle who makes boats, thanks for talking to me instead of getting in the pit!), I did indeed miss Rise Against starting up their own set but this was by no means going to stop me from pushing my way right into the centre of the pit. That was what I came for.
Not surprisingly, Rise Against was everything I hoped it would be; the concert was the best I’ve been to yet, on par with Bad Religion in London the last time they toured. That’s a pretty high mark to hit, but Tim, Joe, Brandon, and Zach performed flawlessly, put together a killer set, and I swear Tim met my eyes as I screamed out the words to ?Black Masks and Gasoline.? Hell, it would have been hard not to notice me–I was crazed, pink-haired, and one of the only girls so far toward the stage.
I have to hand it to the crowd, one of the things that disappointed me at the Warped Tour recently was the lack of hard-core moshers, and this was not the case in Edmonton. There was blood, a lot of falling down, and more than a few elbows and swift kicks to the face and midsection, but all in good fun and, as always in a good punk crowd, no one gets left on the floor for more than half a second before being hoisted back up by a load of sweaty strangers. I loved it.
Most of the songs they played were from Revolutions Per Minute and The Sufferer and the Witness, with the exception of an acoustic interlude that followed the band’s departure from stage and our spirited chorus of ?Rise Against! Rise Against!?
Tim McIlrath walked back onstage to soothe the perspiring and oxygen-deprived masses with ?Swing Life Away? and a Jawbreaker cover whose title unfortunately escapes me. Often with many other bands, this acoustic section would mark the end of the show, and as I sang ?We sit on front porches and swing life away, we get by just fine here on minimum wage,? I wished for the millionth time that a band could cool us down a bit and then do one last song to mosh to. Guess why Rise Against is perfect? The rest of the band filed back onstage, Tim switched into hardcore mode again, and for one last time we bashed into each other at full force to one of my favourite songs, ?The Good Left Undone.?
I pity anyone that missed this show, I really do. I met some great people, lost them in the crowd, got nicely drunk and then cooled myself off outside for a smoke among the brotherhood of RA fans, then lost my head and bruised all my soft tissue in the pit. If that isn’t a perfect moment in life, I don’t know what is. Only upon walking home did I realize that my foot might actually be broken, my kidneys had been pummelled, and the entirety of both arms was untouchable for the pain. My hair had been pulled, I’d been soaked in other people’s sweat enough to actually curl my hair, and although by that point I was immune, I’m sure the smell was pretty atrocious.
In short, I’m there again in a heartbeat, and if you’ve got any inclination at all for this band for its music, vegetarian standards, or simply its stage presence, you ought not to let the next shows sell out before you get onto Ticketmaster. It’s so worth the bruises and broken bones.