When I was first getting into punk rock at age 15, I started with the English class of ’77 bands: the Clash, Sex Pistols, the Damned, etc. It didn’t take me long to start delving deeper into the music and discovering the disparate scenes and bands that fell under the overall punk moniker. I was particularly drawn to the anarcho and peace punk bands, as they were the most blatantly political and I was all about that as an angry young teenager. I got into English bands like Crass, the Subhumans, Flux of Pink Indians, and Rudimentary Peni. My favorite of those bands was Conflict though. They were like Crass (and in fact started on Crass’s record label before starting their own), but their music was more aggressive and they advocated direct action instead of Crass’s straight up pacifism. This was quite appealing to me when I was in high school. I kept hoping that Conflict would tour so I could see them, but they only came to America once in the 80s and that was a West Coast tour. A few years later they broke up.
Imagine my surprise then when I saw in the paper that Conflict was playing here. Naturally, I had to go, even though I hadn’t listened to much Conflict in some years. The show was this past Friday night at Studio 7, a cozy club in “Sodo”, a largely industrial area near the port part of the city. There couldn’t have been more than 250 people there, which suited me just fine. I got there towards the end of the Bloodclots set and based on three of their songs I’m OK with that. Next up was Anima Mundi. They were very much Crass influenced and somewhat interesting in that they had two drummers and four female members. As with many bands in this vein though, watching them play was like being lectured at for half an hour. They were, however, better than the final opening band, Scarred for Life. These guys were about the 3,000th band to ride Discharge’s coattails since 1980. The only thing even mildly notable about them was that the singer was cutting up his head and chest during the set and bleeding all over himself. Alas, such hackney antics don’t make a mediocre band any less mediocre.
At last at 11 pm Conflict hit the stage after a pre-recorded five minute bombastic intro. As near as I could tell it was mostly the original members and they passed the first reunion test by clearly being into what they were doing. The band was tight and they did not fuck around. For 75 minutes they slammed from one song into the next in a furious barrage of classic anarcho punk. They only played a few songs from their first record, but that was fine because they did most of side 1 of “Increase the Pressure,” which was the band at its best. I was pleased to hear both the single “This Is Not Enough” and its b-side “Neither Is This,” which date from the same era. Later in the set they did a bunch of songs from “the Ungovernable Force,” an album which managed to be more musically sophisticated while maintaining the band’s power and edge. The two singers from Anima Mundi came out at several points to do additional vocals for these songs and they were clearly geeked to be onstage with a band they must idolize. Overall, Conflict delivered a solid show. Good song selection, plenty of energy, apparent sincerity. And yet I could not escape the feeling that I was seeing this show 20 years too late.