Arizona? Oh, yeah….we go wayyyyy back. For several years, Chicago-based punk band Rise Against refused to play shows in Arizona in protest of Senate Bill 1070, which was a piece of controversial legislation passed in 2010 that segregated citizens’ rights according to ethnicity. In 2012, the prejudicial law which required law enforcement to arbitrarily violate Mexican-Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights and demand on-the-spot citizenship documentation was challenged, and Rise Against appeared at Mesa Amphitheater shortly after. Many artists were part of this state boycott, refusing to entertain fans here in hopes to incite more displeasure at the immigration law in a state whose population is largely Latino. While the band loves their fans, they have their qualms about the legislature and remained reserved in their returns. Rise Against did play UFEST 2015, and in 2016 the State Of Arizona entered into several legal agreements with a coalition of civil rights organizations and imposed limits the over-sweeping carte blanche law had previously bestowed on law enforcement. Whittling away at the overwhelmingly unpopular “show-me-your-papers-or-else” law and undermining several copycat laws in neighboring states was the defeat of long-time racist and minority bully Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was gloriously removed from office in the 2016 General Election. Rise Against once again graced the stage in Phoenix, AZ at Ak-Chin Pavilion, co-headling the show with So Cal’s own Deftones whose own front man Chino Moreno; Chino’s father is Mexican, and his mother is Chinese. True to their genrical form, nothing at a Rise Against concert is ever “just because”. During their portion of the show, Rise Against’s visionary and conceptioneer, Tim McIlrath, said that they weren’t going to pass over Arizona like a “satellite” anymore, which segued into the song selection of the same name, which was the fourth track on the Endgame album. Endgame‘s release in 2011 was the first time the band had officially drawn a line in the sand outlining their stand on human rights issues, particularly pertaining to the LGBT community. Animal and human rights are a largely prominent theme in all of the band’s lyrics.
While RA has been touring to support their new album, Wolves, which was released in June 2017, much of their song selection centered around The Sufferer And The Witness and Endgame…albums from the band’s more outspoken past that carry a much more gritty ear’s-eye-view of the band’s notable social and political stances and more aggressive musical styling than the more mainstream showings of Black Market and Wolves. The show opens with a general wake-up-and-pay-attention anthem “Ready To Fall“, which is off the 2006 Sufferer album, and followed up with the brilliantly worded “The Good Left Undone” from the same album. The band followed along with “Re-Education (Through Labor)“, which is about the sad immortality of Chinese sweat shops. Rise Against has had a long-running partnership with Vans Shoes, all of which are Vegan-safe, which not only means that the shoes do not use any animal products or animal product processes in their manufacturing process, but that the shoes are manufactured according to Fair Trade standards, which prohibits the use of children and exploited labor forces in developing countries where the product may be outsourced. The band continued their all-too-short powerhouse set with “Help Is On The Way“, which is about the debacle that resulted in Hurricane Katrina becoming as much of a man-made disaster as a natural one. Included in the set was a special selection of “Bricks“, who’s lyrics juxtapose the phenomenon of tolerance double speak regarding LGBT community issues. The song ended with the band’s ginormous LED screens displaying a rainbow flag. Half way through the set, front man Tim McIlrath was the lone player on the stage, offering a sad and mournful plea for unity in a solo, spotlight performance of Black Market’s “People Live Here“, where he talks about how much music has helped Man work through His problems, individually and as a whole, and how music can unify us and help us work together because we all have to share the space. Just as the song says…”people live here”. McIlrath has always had a gift for eloquently turning the problems of society into a poem, and his monologue ends in the band’s exciting call to arms, “Survive“, from The Sufferer and the Witness, whose lyrics reiterate the band’s over all message for the evening: “How we survive is what makes us who we are.”
Even though Rise Against is somewhat aggressive and immutable in their beliefs and in their message, the concert was warm and inviting. Tim McIlrath is a gracious host, even if you don’t subscribe to all of his tenets. The music is real, it’s live, and even if it does make the occasional disparaging remark, it is not sad or depressing. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The band is exciting to watch and the music is upbeat and engaging. Rise Against is fun with a purpose. They do not use tracks or tricks to produce their set, and over all the atmosphere felt close and intimate despite the vastness of the venue. Rise Against appeared with The Deftones as part of a colossal summer tour supported by Frank Iero and The Patience and Thrice.
All photos Copyright ©2017 JAM Vaughan (LivingDedGrrl™). All rights reserved. Do not use without written permission. Do not remove watermark.