Punk & Hardcore

Rise Against Hits The Stage Running

Rise Against hit the Valley in support of Nowhere Generation.
Rise Against hit the Valley in support of Nowhere Generation. Jason Siegel
If you asked enough musicians, most would agree that there are plenty of obstacles to face as touring recommences nationwide: being rusty after 16-plus months off the road, or booking enough shows to simply meet the demand.

But for the members of iconic punk band Rise Against, there are other issues that are equally disconcerting.

"It's the first tour we've ever had to close the backstage access," says co-founder and bassist Joe Principe. "It's strange."

(For the record, Principe says there are actual operational challenges, like the "strange scarcity of buses after the influx of tour announcements.")

That might seem like a silly complaint, but it does speak to the value of community for Rise Against. It's the very bedrock of the band's 22-year career as celebrated punk rockers.

"Why we discovered punk rock is to have a scene where we could all relate to [one another], and it helps us get through those tough times," Principe says.

Live shows, then, are a natural progression of this idea, and they're very much how the band engages with its fanbase in an organic, highly intimate manner.

"The release you get from seeing live music and just for your mental well-being, it's extremely important," Principe says. "Over the last 18 months or whatever, we didn't have the luxury of that, this separation from your everyday work life with the release of a live concert. So, we felt it was very important to get out there 'cause everyone needs it." Principe says he's grappling with the same longing, and has plans to see show this fall from Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys, and Rancid.

That doesn't mean, however, the band isn't being as careful and diligent as possible in putting on these concerts. Before Rise Against started its latest tour in late July, the band played a preview show — and that's where the members learned fun and safety aren't mutually exclusive.

"It was this very old-school punk rock show, because we kind of wanted to under-play just to get us going," Principe says. "There was no barricade and kids were stage-diving. The kids that we talked to, they were vaccinated. That doesn't cover everyone there. But at the same time, you hope people are being responsible and respectful of others."

As he readily admits, Principe isn't naïve enough to assume that having the right attitude will make all the difference. Instead, he recognizes that the next several months or so will be about forging a new path for musicians and concertgoers alike.

"It's a little frustrating to see the numbers kind of creep up, especially in areas where there's not that high a vaccination rate," he says. "All the bands that are on the road right now, we're trying to figure out as we go. It's like pioneering, if you will."

Principe adds, "I think moving forward, with anything we do, it's all about safety. It's all about making sure we're not doing more harm than good. That's definitely going to be in the back of our minds. Because we wouldn't do it if we were endangering people."

He pointed to an example like Lollapalooza, which earned some negative press with its crowds of unmasked attendees across Chicago's Grant Park.

"I think Lollapalooza was a good testament to the power of music," Principe says. "A lot of people there said, 'Oh, this is a bad idea.' But at the same time, those fans needed that. And the vaccination rates at the festival were really high, which is encouraging."

Principe understands the concerns, but says it's a more nuanced issue than you'd expect.

"There's always going to be the naysayers — 'Oh, the vaccination cards are forged.' Maybe a small percentage," he says. "And that's going to happen no matter what you do. At the same time, let's focus on the positive here. I think that the benefits definitely outweighed the cons there."

A lot of these ideas — community, rallying around positivity, and holding each other accountable — rest at the heart of the band's recently released ninth album, Nowhere Generation. Whereas previous Rise Against records had more focused themes, addressing topics like environmentalism or the evils of capitalism, this LP has a more broad narrative agenda.

"We finished this record before the pandemic, but the lyrics are certainly applicable to the pandemic," Principe says. "It's a record that, instead of trying to provide a solution, or how we always give a sense of hope on our on our records, it's instead like, 'We don't have to have all the answers.' But, we can certainly sing along in solidarity with just how hard it is to have your head above water these days."

He adds, "We don't want to preach, and we don't want to force-feed anything to anybody. I think the lyrical message behind our lyrics, that'll come the more you listen to a song — it's going to resonate and it's going to sink in. We don't want to overwhelm anyone, and we don't want people to overthink it. We just want people to have this release."

Principe admits that if a specific message does make it across, it's all that more rewarding.

"When you talk to a fan, and they're like, 'Oh, thank you for opening my eyes to factory farming. I'm vegetarian now. Or, I'm vegan now because of that," he says. "It makes my heart full. It's nice to know people are actually paying attention and listening to no matter what. Because at least we reached one person."

It's ultimately reflective of the band's larger journey in the last two decades. Principe says the quartet have all grown up together, even becoming fathers around the same time, and that contextualizes what the band does now as genuine industry vets.

"It's interesting raising kids and also being in a band like Rise Against because the whole purpose was to question authority," he says. "But now you are authority — so be careful what you wish for."

Robust self-awareness like that is what keeps Rise Against perpetually fresh, especially as they work so hard to remain true to their punk roots.

"It's funny, we talk about [goals] whenever we tackle a new record," Principe says. "What is Rise Against supposed to be in 2019 or 2020 or 2021? At the same time, you can't overthink it, and then it becomes insincere. At this point, we know we're a punk rock band at heart. We write whatever we feel at the moment in the moment."

That doesn't mean they can't plan for the future, of course. For Principe, that means more "global touring," even if it's just finally getting into Canada. If and when that happens, you can expect to see Rise Against do what they do best: forge a community around the sheer exuberance of live music.

"We were kind of stuck in our cages for the last [18 months]," he says. "Now that someone opened the door, we're running around on stage."

Rise Against headline the "Nowhere Generation" tour (with Descendents and The Menzingers) on Tuesday, August 17 at Arizona Federal Theatre, 400 West Washington Street. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $35 to $275 via Live Nation.
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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan

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