Anti-Fest and OWTH rd. 2

Trying to get back at this with little to no wind at my sails. One reason I wanted to at least try is the weekend of back to back shows that just ended. The other is the roadtrip to Tennessee that begins today.

That trip to Columbus back in summer of 2019 was so special because it was the first time Colton and I had gone out of town on our own together for a show. It’s relatively routine now, but this weekend was still a special one.

Saturday morning we left around 9 or so for Pittsburgh and the AC Hotel at the end of Smallman St. Its been there a while now, now but we’d never even considered staying there. In fact, I’m not sure I realized It was part of Marriott until recently. We were able to check in early and were settled by 11:30. From there we walked up to the strip to find lunch, but as is the norm around lunchtime at the strip, everyplace was crowded. Neither of us had a destination in mind until we thought of Kelly O’s where we had gone with Steph a few days earlier. Well, they had a line out the door and the chicken place under the parking garage didn’t appeal to Colton. He’s going to be picky like his mom when it comes to finding a place to eat I’m afraid. He was getting hungry and rather than just grab any little thing, we were determined to find something out of the ordinary to try. We ended up grabbing scooters in front of the Terminal and heading across the river on the 16th St. bridge to the river trail on the North Side. We passed the building housing the Van Gogh exhibit which was busier than I would have expected, especially since I thought it had probably already moved on.

Once down to Federal St. we located the Federal Gallery, which was a recommended by a friend from work. It was a modern food court essentially, with four food places on one side and a bar in the middle. It was also very crowded. Steph would have learned how it worked and had us a meal in no time, but Colton and I tend to get overwhelmed easily and stumbled around a bit before we managed to get something to eat. He ended up with a really good order of chicken and waffles which turned out to be nowhere near big enough to share. I had been so desperate not to get too much food or overeat that I basically screwed myself out of a good lunch. His lunch was great and I did have a bite or two at the end.

From there we intended to ride scooters around Heinz Field in the midst of the Pitt tailgaters, of which there were many. Pitt has actually had a really good season for a change so the beautiful Saturday saw the parking lots on the North Shore much like you’d see them for the Steelers. The scooters died on us before we even got to Stage AE though. I’m glad Pittsburgh finally has scooters but they are definitely more strict with them than other places we’ve been. I guess they can easily program them to shut down when you go somewhere they don’t want you. And being a game day, they obviously didn’t want you around all the pedestrians. Back across the Clemente Bridge downtown they died on us again on Penn Ave. around 7th St. Downtown was being set up for Light Up Night which looked like it was going to be pretty awesome. We eventually saw where at least three stages were set up for live entertainment. There were fireworks, food trucks, and a whole lot of people were anticipated that night. After seeing what was happening, we both decided that Light Up night in Pittsburgh might have to get on our schedule in the coming years.

We eventually made it back to the hotel for a couple hours of rest time. It was then that I realized I still hadn’t eaten anything and we walked up to the strip again. Inexplicably, even though Edgars appeared to be open, we went straight to the Olive Tap to visit Lauren. Lauren is an old school punk rocker who had helped us at the Olive Tap more than two years ago when Colton and I showed up in Iron Maiden shirts on the day of the show. She saw us and told us she was going to the show as well. We talked quite a while and learned that she goes to shows as religiously as we do and had also been in the pit at the Slayer show the previous summer.

Subsequent strip trips have always included a visit to the store to buy vinegar or simply to chat with her. She wasn’t going to Anti-Fest because she had another show to see but planned to see us the next night in Morgantown for Off With Their Heads.

And again, we walked back to the hotel with no food. After a small chunk of rest time it was time to head to McKee’s Rocks and the Roxian Theatre. The Roxian was renovated in 2019 and was just starting to see a good lineup of shows when March 2020 showed up, and all that had been normal abruptly ended. I think Anti-Fest 2020 was about two weeks away when all that happened. Over 18 months later, it was finally going to happen.

We parked in the back of the theatre and immediately went in, which probably wasn’t a smart move since it was so early. Its been our practice though to get in at least close to doors open time ever since that A Day to Remember show back in summer of 2019. The Roxian is very nice. The lower level has been renovated to be nearly entirely open with bars and merch tables while the upstairs has traditional theatre seats. The recessed front portion of the lower level is the pit area which was was surprisingly small. I don’t know if it was sold out, but it was pretty crowded, the pit especially.

The bands were all good. Two years ago I only knew Anti-Flag, but in that time I got to know all of them at least well enough to appreciate their sets. The two new (to me) bands I looked forward to most were Doll Skin and Badcop, Badcop. All women and so incredibly fun to watch. We rested a bit during Punchline and Suicide Machines in preparation for Anti-Flag. And man, they did not disappoint. I’ve known their music for quite a while now, but didn’t realize how great they were live. Of course they were happy to be doing the hometown show, so it makes sense.

As exhausted as I was, I can’t even describe how refreshing the whole night was. Knowing you’re surrounded by people who accept one another no matter what. People sick to death of the selfishness, ignorance and intolerance that surrounds us every day. All in all it was around 6hrs we were at the Roxian. I was as tired as I’ve ever been but so rejuvenated at the same time.

Sunday was the hard part. As is the way with life in general I guess. Even though I slept in a good bit, we were still ready to roll and in the car before 11. Doors for the show in Morgantown weren’t until 7. So yeah, 8hrs or so in the car, stores and restaurants in Pittsburgh, Morgantown and in between.

Here’s the day in a nutshell: Hotel, Ross Park Mall, Cheesecake Factory, Dicks Sporting Goods junk store, Settlers Ridge, Barnes and Noble, Giant Eagle Market District, Washington, Petco, Sams, Mount Morris, Huddle House, Menards, Sheetz and finally Morgantown and 123 Pleasant St.

I hadn’t been in 123 since college. Its a really cool place that Morgantown is lucky to have. Ryan Young and one of the Thick girls commented on that as well. We hung back and seated for the first band that was local and actually not bad at all. I wasn’t spending any more of my scarce energy than I had to though. The previous night had me about half dead all day already.

When Thick started, we went among the others and enjoyed they show. You know, that was another really awesome aspect of the weekend, we saw three fantastic all girl bands. I’m even wearing a Doll Skin shirt as I write this four days later! That they were there at all is an encouraging sign of progress, and the fact that they were all really good made it even better.

After the Thick set, while a lot of people hit the bar, Colton and I made our way to the stage and planted ourselves. Nothing will top the Off With Their Heads show in Pittsburgh in August simply because of the first show back angle, but this one was close. Ryan Young’s insanity and mine match up about perfectly so his lyrics speak to me more than most. It was such a good time. All the killing time through the day turned out more than worth it.

In the end, I didn’t have much of a voice left and couldn’t hear very well either. Lauren and her boyfriend had slipped in while we were up at the stage watching them set up equipment. That tells you how important Off With Their Heads is to some of us. They drove down from Pittsburgh just for Ryan and skipped the other bands entirely. We chatted a while and talked about upcoming shows. We hugged and said our goodbyes. Who would have thought, after all these years and countless trips to the strip, I’d eventually make a friend there?

Colton drove us home and after a quick McDonalds stop we were home around midnight some very contented boys.