It’s not very often that I go to house shows, due to their inaccessibility, but after patiently waiting a little over two years to see Animal Flag, I made the hike down into the basement of The Chokey, on May 21st, for what ended up being one of my favorite shows of all time.
It was a warm day, one that some Oregonians would argue was a little too warm, but the cement basement stayed refreshingly cool. Skateboard decks lined the ceiling above the rug that the bands performed on, and a DIY banner reading ‘The Chokey’ hung in the background. The space felt as intimate as it clearly was.
I don’t get the chance to see bands in this part of the scene as often as I’d like because they usually play in basements, so getting to watch Portland locals Clovver, Riled, and later Hemingway, was a real treat. It was also nice to be out of my element and meet new people. It felt like a natural and assumed safe space—no label needed.
Animal Flag played fourth, following Cold Beaches, another touring band. The power supply gave almost every band some trouble, but Animal Flag had the worst time with it as they stretched cords as far as they could to reach the power strip. As they grew closer to being ready to play, my excitement was building. A lot of the small bands that I discovered around the same time as Animal Flag have broken up, slowed down, or just don’t have any plans to make it to Portland anytime soon, so realizing I was actually about to see Animal Flag was surreal.
Last year Animal Flag released an album that was the result of combining their two preceding EPs into a complete and originally intended full-length. All but one song in their set came from the album, and I was in awe as I watched these songs come alive. Their crescendos were even more massive and effective live, and songs like “Solace” carried extra fresh and unexpected energy. My favorite part of the night was getting to hear “Mercy” live. I tweeted them to request it earlier in the day, and vocalist/guitarist Matt Politoski fulfilled my request with poise. It’s one of Animal Flag’s longer and more laidback songs, so they don’t play it too often, but it contains one of my favorite lyrics of all time, ‘Despite my doubts, I will travel toward my fears and live them out,’ so I’m very thankful to have gotten to see it. Matt’s voice easily filled the dampened room, and then Animal Flag brought the energy back up for the rest of their set which unfortunately got cut short. They were closing with a new song, but then in the middle of it, all of their gear started coming unplugged, and they were going to fix it, but the energy that they created during their set had vanished with the interruption, so we’ll just have to hear it once it’s released in the future.
I highly recommend checking out Animal Flag if you’re into any alternative/indie-rock at all. It’s only up from here for this band.
Check out all of Animal Flag’s tour dates at animalflagmusic.com.