Although formerly smug baby boomers are suddenly losing their retirement eggs, and white-bread suburban families are reeling from rising food and gas prices, the economic crisis doesn't seem to be affecting the Pittsburgh music scene much. People still go to shows, buy records and drink cheap beers in local dives.
Anti-Flag bassist Chris Barker (a.k.a. Chris #2) thinks fans should also be responsive to the needs of their community. "If you turn on the news, you hear often how the Pittsburgh Food Bank is having problems because there are more people in need of assistance," he says. "They're 500,000 pounds below their average for this time of year."
The band decided to host a benefit for the Food Bank called Yes We Can, an all-ages event at Mr. Small's at 7 p.m. Sun., Nov. 9. It will feature Anti-Flag along with hilarious hip-hop duo Grand Buffet, A-F label artists Incommunicado, and newcomers Girlfight -- for just $5. "There might be a special guest, too," adds Barker. "We're asking people to bring nonperishable food items, so they can win prize drawings which include records, T-shirts, CDs, skate decks, and maybe even a nice vegan-dinner evening with [Anti-Flag drummer] Pat Thetic."
The band also wanted to do something positive specifically for Pittsburgh. "We're lucky to travel the world, and we meet a lot of people that know about what we have here," says Barker. "Many people ask about Behind Enemy Lines, or the Mr. Roboto Project, wondering if the scene is as cool as they read about in Maximum Rock 'N Roll. Or you'll find someone in a Penguins shirt or a Pirates hat because we have historic teams -- we've been in a Steeler bar in Prague. We try to connect to home as much as possible." (The posters for Yes We Can incorporate a Warhol soup-can reference.)
That connection also involves running their A-F Records label. Even while paring down the roster, they've managed to release a new CD for Darkest Hour, an Inquisition reissue, the vinyl version of Anti-Flag's major-label release The Bright Lights of America, and an album for locals Incommunicado. "We're also distributing the Allies record, and we have American Armada doing pre-production in the studio we built in our Shaler warehouse."
But right now, Barker just looks forward to another Pittsburgh gig. "We want to make the city come together. In an election time when people are dictating to us how to run our lives, it'll be nice to have a little, tangible victory, and some solace in a world that seems quite arduous."