Propagandhi Starlite Room, Edmonton AB, June 17
Published Jun 18, 2018Some of the political issues Propagandhi exposed through their music in the early '90s now appear regularly in prime time or as headlines. If the cultural momentum of 2018 is starting to catch up to issues surrounding race, gender and inequality, Propagandhi remain firmly discontent, unwilling to take a Victory Lap around the activism they've advocated for over the last 30-plus years as a band.
Following ferocious sets from fellow Winnipegers Mobina Galore, and Dominican hardcore denizens La Armada, Propagandhi lit the fuse on a set that exploded like a roman candle. Starting with "Failed Imagineer," the front half of the sold-out crowd intuitively flew into a sizeable mosh pit. If you stand close to something explosive, expect to caught up in it and to have less arm hair after it blows up.
Opting to burn bright, the dystopian diatribes and spoken word rallying cries from previous Propagandhi shows were left out. Aside from a subtle crowd-baiting diss via a Jets v. Oilers comparison before "Dear Coaches Corner" and a later nod to Edmonton punk pioneers SNFU from bassist Tod Kowalski, banter between songs was minimal. Preaching wasn't part of the evening's program. Propagandhi and the Sunday congregation of long-converted progressive punks came to rock.
Strides were hit, fists were pumped, and the intensity grew with frontman Chris Hannah, drummer Jord Samolesky and relatively new guitarist Sulynn Hago blasting through select songs from their entire catalogue. The more dense the riffs, the more proficient Propagandhi played. The more progressive the talk in their lyrical content, the more willing the crowd were to rock.
Designing a set list is an understandably hard choice for a band with a devoted fan base and decades-long back catalogue of songs, but the Fat Wreck Chords-era songs that finished the pre-encore set sounded dated by contrast to the technical prowess and maturity of more recent releases. Hearing "...And We Thought That Nation-States Were a Bad Idea" and "Anti-Manifesto" had the same effect of being a certain age and remembering your childhood best friend's land line number — something easily recalled, but more meaningful as nostalgia.
After barely leaving the stage, Propagandhi returned quickly for an encore returning to newer work, closing with "Night Letters" to recapture the intensity and return to blazing form.