Recap: Propagandhi and RVIVR at Concord Music Hall

Phil Collins - August 23, 2014

It was a stacked lineup at Concord Music Hall on Wednesday. Propagandhi, the veteran vegan punks from Canada, headlined the show. They do not tour the States very often, so their appearance alone was cause for excitement. They brought RVIVR on tour with them. RVIVR's 2013 album "The Beauty Between," of course, won Change the Rotation's album of the year bracket last year. War on Women were also on the bill, with fresh copies of their excellent 10-inch, "Improvised Weapons." Chicago locals La Armada rounded out the lineup for this final show of the tour.


The show started so early that I got there just in time to catch RVIVR. They started their set not five minutes after I walked in, and it looked like our group was not alone in this situation, as the room continued to fill as RVIVR's set blasted along. It was a bummer to miss two great bands, but I am so glad I was in there in time to see RVIVR's full set. They opened with the first three songs off "The Beauty Between," in order. The vast majority of their set was comprised of songs from that album, the band only detoured for a couple other songs from their catalog. That was just fine with me, as "The Beauty Between" remains my favorite release of thiers. From the deliberate buildup of guitars in the first half of "The Seam" to the eyebrow-raising delivery of vocals from Erica Freas on "Spider," those songs have been staples for me since the album's release.

Last year, RVIVR stopped at Township on a huge international tour supporting their freshly released sophomore full-length. It was significant that they played at an official venue, rather than the DIY spaces they often played in the past. Well, Wednesday's show at Concord was another massive step forward. This is the venue that replaced the nearby Congress Theater after it was closed for building code violations. It is not as large a venue as Congress, but it is a triple decker arena compared to Township or DIY spaces. Of course, opening for a punk staple like Propagandhi is also a big deal. I said it last year and I'll say it again, RVIVR is going places fast.

Propagandhi delivered a headlining set that lived up to their status as seasoned, evolved leaders in the genre. They drew heavily from their most recent album, 2012's "Failed States." The opener off that album, "Note to Self," was one of my favorite parts of the evening. The rumbling progression of that song was flawlessly executed on stage. The crowd had not moved around a whole lot during RVIVR's set, but it did not take long for the pit to open up and the stagedivers to fly during Propagandhi's set. At one point, lead singer Chris Hannah called a couple out he saw showing some affection in the crowd to come up on stage and do a kissing stagedive. They came up on stage and it looked like they would go for it, until they anticlimactically stepped off stage.


In recent years, Propagandhi's material has leaned headfirst into more complex, metal territory. Their newer albums retain a punk sound and lyrical content, but they leave their metal influences in plain sight. The technical precision of the songs on "Failed States" comes across impressively on songs like "Cognitive Suicide" and "Rattan Cane," both of which were played on Wednesday. Still, their faster and hardcore songs hold the most sway with me. Of course, older songs like "Fuck the Border," "Back to the Motor League" and "Haillie Sallasse, Up Your Ass" got a huge response and rightfully so.

Propagandhi is known for taking a stance on political, social and human rights issues. Wednesday, they derided police brutality, organized religion, nationalism and the idea of standing for the national anthem at sporting events. It is important to have bands who are willing to speak out on societal issues and norms, calling attention to injustices and inequities. All the bands on the bill Wednesday night are that kind of band, which was no accident. The more bands like these there are out there playing shows, the better.