Propagandhi at Music Hall of Williamsburg

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You'd think one would develop a pretty thick skin by playing in a hardcore band for more than 20 years. But Propagandhi singer-guitarist Chris Hannah and drummer Jord Samolesky, who cofounded the group in Winnipeg back in 1986, seemed pretty miffed at the crowd during their show at Music Hall of Williamsburg last night. The first offense came as the quartet was taking the stage and a "Let's go, Rangers!" chant broke out. Both men, avowed fans of Canadian hockey, assumed looks of disgust; Samolesky grabbed the mike and whined, "Will you please shut up?" Then a few songs into the set, a stage-diver came flying toward Hannah and smashed his mike stand into his mouth, sending him reeling. Stepping back up, he snarled, "If you do that again, I'm gonna stomp your face."The stridently political band is known for its prickly demeanor, often treating its audience more like pupils then paying customers--selling far-left-wing tracts by Chris Hedges and others at the merch table, for one. (And consider "Anti-Manifesto," played in a blistering version near the end of the set: "A rebellion cut to fit./I refuse to be the soundtrack to it./While we entertain, we're still knee-deep in shit.") But no one seemed to mind. This sellout crowd was one of the most loyal and adoring I've witnessed in my decade of NYC showgoing: moshing, body-surfing, fist-pumping and singing along to every song, even the brand-new ones. An inspiring sight, considering the band was playing behind Supporting Caste, its first album since 2005 (not to mention a strong early contender for record of the year--read my TONY review here--and the source of 2009's most gutsy, moving song by a mile: "Dear Coach's Corner," played early in the set last night).

I'd first heard Propagandhi via its 1994 release, How to Clean Everything, a pissed-off pop-punk disc mitigated by dollops of dorky comedy. Having not really kept up with the band in the intervening decade and change, I was pretty shocked by how tight, progressive and heavy Supporting Caste was. All those adjectives applied to last night's show, whose steely virtuosity seemed more akin to speed metal than punk. It was an inspiring night, and even more so because it was so off the cool-kid grid: There wasn't a hipster in sight, and the punks on hand—most notably the one who bum-rushed the stage and received a bear hug from beaming bassist Todd Kowalski—weren't afraid to go absolutely effing nuts in support of a brutally sincere band that's truly worth believing in.

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