by Meg Fair
Chris No. 2 is the fearless vocalist and bassist of Pittsburgh-based political punk act Anti-Flag. He was kind enough to take a few moments out of his busy hometown gig day to chat with City Paper about 11 years of Warped Tour, making yourself feel at home in the middle of a long tour, and holding it down as a political and punk staple on the tour.
Welcome home! It’s Pittsburgh Warped Day. How are you feeling?
Stressed! Stress level is always high when we’re at home, but it’s all totally self-inflicted stress. I’m trying to do stuff at home to create some normalcy, and that’s cool, like I love walking the dog. But I also have to play this show. [Laughs]
I got in about 10:30 last night, so it was nice to sit with my partner and she fell asleep next to me while we were watching TV, and it was so great. It’s like, “I’m home!” and then I realize, “Oh fuck, I’m still on Warped Tour.” You don’t know what time you play until 11 a.m. and then you play at 2:30 and you have to rush here, so it’s a crazy day. But it’ll be cool when we’re playing the songs and turn around and see our families there.
Did you get to bring your pup along today?
No, she stayed home today! But she is coming to the D.C. Warped Tour, she’s doing great and she loves people, so she’s gonna have a great time. But again, in another bout for normalcy, I’m definitely going to the Pirates game after our show [laughs]. It’s cramming in as much “I’m home” in a very little time.
This is obviously not your first Warped Tour.
It’s our 11th!
In 11 years of Warped, what has gotten easier, and what’s gotten more challenging?
The anxiety of Warped Tour itself has gotten easier. I used to really, especially in the early 2000s, maybe when Warped was its biggest, it was like, “Is anyone going to watch us today?” I was always worrying about that, not because the show would be different, but something about the human nature of not knowing was so crazy to me, and it really it took me to become an adult to realize, “Hey, Chris! You can’t control that!”
I’m also thankful War on Women and Valiant Thor and Sick of it All, The Adolescents are here. It’s a contingency of real punk rock. It’s not solely up to us this time around, but for so long it was up to us to hold it down as far as figuring out who is the anti-war band, who is the band that is talking about eliminating racism and sexism and homophobia from our scene? I felt like we’ve got to talk to these kids, like it was an overbearing feeling of wanting to go and meet every single kid who watched us and shake all their hands and tell them that if they’re fucked up or feel like they don’t fit in, if they feel as if there isn’t a space for them, there is, and it’s with us and punk rock.
Thankfully this year we don’t have to hold that entirely down, but that’s still our goal and why we’re here. We wouldn’t do Warped Tour if it wasn’t an opportunity to turn on that lightbulb above folks’ heads that would not see us and honestly do not see us.
[Anti-Flag] has always been a band that speaks to what we believe punk rock is, this all-inclusive thing that is dangerous to the status quo and dangerous to the powerful. I feel like if there’s an opportunity for us to share that, we’re going to take it.
Did you attend Warped Tour before Anti-Flag began playing it?
Yeah! It’s funny because I went to one Warped Tour before I joined Anti-Flag, and I went to that show to flyer for Anti-Flag. [Laughs] so when I joined the next summer I was on Warped Tour.
Has your traveling situation become more comfortable over the years?
No! We did two dates on our first Warped just to get the feel of it, which we did in a van. But then we did it in a Winnebago we built. So we’ve always kind of had a leg up on bands that do Warped Tour in a van or whatever, but now we’re in a Winnebago thing that’s cool, but I thought the clubhouse we built was way cooler.
Does the Pittsburgh date feel any different?
Pride’s a dumb thing to me, so we don’t exactly have a Pittsburgh pride, but we say we’re from Pittsburgh on every single date. It’s been that way since day one, mostly because almost all the bands were from New York or LA or SF and that was our little, “Fuck you!” [Laughs] But by self-identifying that way, it has made these moments where they can see that ‘hometown kids done good’ story, and people enjoy that.
We’re going to have a record come out in the fall. There’s a lot of bigotry that has been empowered right now, and the record counteracts that. I think it’s important to share this on Woody Guthrie’s birthday today. He said, “Let’s comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable,” and right now we’ve got 25 minutes to do that, so that’s what I’m about to go do.