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SHOW REVIEW: Down By Law, Anti-Flag, Violent Society
First Unitarian Church-10/19/97-Philadelphia, PA

By: Jeff Lockwood

The basement of this fully active church has been holding punk and ska shows for a couple of years now. The sound system doesn't always work, there are no fancy stage lights, and it gets really hot inside, but it is a great DIY place for kids to go hear some great music. I've even seen a wedding rehearsal upstairs while a punk show blazed along downstairs. But, enough about the venue.

As usual, we missed the first band. We entered the hot basement just in time to see Violent Society. These guys have a hard edged punk thing going. It is not quite hardcore, but there is enough screaming and angst to make one believe that they are. I would have liked to have seen them play a bit longer, but the energy that they put out in such a short time could have lit up west Philly.

The best part of the evening had to be Anti-Flag. I must confess that I live in Pittsburgh and I have never seen this Pittsburgh punk band. But, this was my big chance, and the best part was that I had no prior knowledge of their gig tonight. Anti-Flag is a very politically active punk band from Pittsburgh that has been making some noise lately. Their style of punk has often been compared to some of those early British punk bands. And that is not such a bad thing. Besides the seriousness of their messages, Anti- Flag was a very fun and entertaining band. Their set was way too delayed and way too short due to technical problems.

Down By Law is a punk band that has had a few different line-ups since their self titled debut release in 1991. Lead guitarist and singer, Dave Smalley, is not only the founder of the band, he is basically the only original member. Some might remember Dave from his old bands, DYS and All.

Los Angeles is the home of Down By Law and you could tell tonight. This church basement was the farthest thing from an LA club. On record, DBL has a rich guitar sound that compliments the catchy melodies of Smalley's vocals. To make a short story shorter...the mix did not fall together too well tonight. Part of the blame was the house sound system. It just did not accommodate DBL. On the same note, Down By Law sound like they need a good sound system or good production.

More than half of the audience left after the Anti-Flag set. Down By Law ripped through songs from their new album Last of the Sharpshooters as well as older songs from their previous three albums. DBL performed with a lot of emotion, but those emotions did not seem to be shared with the crowd. I can't really say what the problem was, accept that they were not very entertaining.

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