What I remember most about seeing Strike Anywhere was a dread-locked punk kid — a near mirror of Strike Anywhere frontman Thomas Barnett — scrambling over and around the bodies in the front rows, grasping at air, screaming along and giving his all just to be that much closer to the band on stage.
Now, crowd surfing and sing-alongs are no rare occurrence at punk rock shows. But the kind of convicted desperation this character portrayed is. Sincerely, it seemed his life depended on this band. Maybe he believed it did.
The way Strike Anywhere plays, his conviction is understandable.
When Strike Anywhere formed in Richmond, Va., in 1999, the decision was made to play with the pointed messaging and die-hard conviction of activists. With the kind of melodically-accessible, righteously anthemic take on punk rock that has endeared other bands like Anti-Flag and Rise Against to fans (and major labels), Strike Anywhere inspires emotion and activity.
But, as Barnett clarifies in wordy posts on the band’s web site, Strike Anywhere isn’t about sloganeering or indignant elitism. “We also are regular jobs-between-tours-having, acoustic guitar porch-sittin’, carpenters, motorcycle mechanics, baristas, animal lovin’, good times havin’ fellows, who love a good protest march and bit of direct action every so often, but also enjoy life, smile a lot and try to laugh with our friends even when the world seems lost … and finally, we realize that mainstream media/American culture tries its damndest to capture political punk and render it into a toothless cartoon of tired slogans and one-dimensional rage. We will be happiest if we never give them this opportunity.”
Ten years later, the songs still echo these goals. Stories told of social casualties — like lovelorn victims that inhabit many of Billy Bragg’s songs — inspire emotion for people, instead of catchphrases. There are few tired slogans to be heard here, only ecstatic choruses; no one-dimensional rage, but questioning, confusion and conviction; no elitism, just dedicated kids grasping at inspiration.