The Refused: At the Warfield, San Francisco, CA, April 18, 2012 By Federico

Jun 12, 2012


This is unusual: my left ear is still ringing from the show last night. More recently, I try hard to wear earplugs at shows (it seems kinda lame, but it’s necessary nowadays), so I haven’t had a bad case of tinnitus for quite awhile. Last night was different. It didn’t seem that loud, but sometimes a person is too busy rocking out to notice.

I was late with Refused—it was probably at least a year after Shape of Punk to Come was released that I started getting into them (although get into them I certainly did)—and it’s always vexed me that they played their last show in Virginia, where I’m from. I knew nothing about it at the time.

When my brother and I heard that they were playing at the Coachella Festival in Southern California this year, we were torn. Neither of us really wanted to shell out hundreds of bucks for a ticket to the festival, but there wasn’t any option to pay to see just one band. Sure, there were some other good bands playing, but big festivals like that are really not my thing. So we were both super excited when we learned that they added a show in San Francisco. 

As with all the shows Refused is playing in the States, the San Francisco one sold out in just a few minutes. I was ready in an online “waiting room” at least twenty minutes before they went on sale. I managed to get tickets for my brother and me, but I still didn’t get floor. We were disappointed because neither of us are the type to choose seats over general admission (especially for a band like Refused—come on!), and I actually don’t even go to many shows where seats are an option, but at the same time we were just glad we’d gotten tickets at all. And I figured that I had plenty of time (bought the tickets back in January, almost three months before the actual show) to get used to the idea.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really get used to it and it was lame. It really was. It’s just not the same! The Warfield ( is kind of a cool spot (I love the photos they have on the walls and the theatre itself is very pretty), but on the night of the show, I was at a loss up there in the seats.

The Bronx (, an awesome band from Southern California, was up first. I’ve seen them a few times before, in Baltimore and San Francisco. They are fun. I always have a good time with them. To me they seem more punk live than recorded. Nice! And my brother—he super loves them—he has also seen them numerous times. The Bronx are one of the reasons we were extra psyched for the show—not just Refused, but also The Bronx! Fantastic!

Alas, it was painful from the seats. It was a great view, sure. We weren’t in any kind of nosebleed section (actually, I don’t think the Warfield is big enough to have a nosebleed section). We could see everything perfectly, but it didn’t sound the same. It sounded removed. It sounded like we were up here and the band was down there. And it didn’t feel the same. It felt self-conscious. Although the show was sold out, there were a lot of people who still hadn’t arrived by the time Bronx went on. And those people who were there, well most of them were sitting down. It was weird. And there was no heat.

But looking down, we could see a sweaty crowd on the floor. We could see the energetic singer jump into the crowd and rile people up (especially loved his ability to convince people to do a New Year’s Eve-esque countdown during the break in “Shitty Future”—an excellent song!). So it was painful. We tried not to concern ourselves with it, but after The Bronx finished my brother and I both admitted that it was mildly awful to have tickets for seats instead of floor and we were both anxious about how it was going to be during Refused. I don’t want to complain or act like it was the worst thing in the world or something. It just sucked. You know what I mean.

The Hives ( were up next. I used to be a fan, around Barely Legal and Veni Vini Vicious times, but they lost me on Tyrannosaurus Hives. So, I don’t not like them, and I definitely like many songs by them (particularly on Barely Legal), but I wasn’t dying to see them or something (and I’ve seen them before). They came out in tuxes with tails and top hats like the entertainers they are. Singer Pelle Almqvist was cocky and engaging. However, we were still up in the seats. It wasn’t grabbing me at all. It’s so much more personal when you’re down with the band (even if they’re on an actual stage, rather than the floor). The guitar is closer.

My brother, a friend we were with, and I talked about how to sneak onto the floor throughout the breaks. Some of the employees (who are supposed to check your tickets at the entrance to the section) didn’t seem to be paying that much attention. At the least we would only have gotten turned away, but we wanted to make absolutely sure we didn’t get kicked out. Our collective opinion was that Refused from the balcony would definitely be better than Refused from outside the club.

However—you guessed it, right, it’s like Hollywood, the happy ending I’m about to throw at you—about fifteen minutes before Refused was supposed to go on, our friend called us from downstairs and told us to come down. We headed down there lickety split.  He knew somebody. He would try to get us on the floor. He didn’t want to push his luck (he and his two friends originally had seats, too), but he figured we might as well try. And wouldn’t you know it, we were ushered right in.

What a difference general admission makes! Right away everything felt so much better. We were down there now! My brother and our friend and I were all smiles. All smiles. We were happy. We were so glad to be off that dumb balcony and down on the floor. I was yakking it up with total strangers, I was sharing beers with them, I was grinning and excited. Because we were all down on the floor and Refused was about to play. Refused! Plus, it’s such a lovely kinship being at a show with other people who are also psyched. And there were a lot of those people around.

We’d talked about expectations before the show. Shape of Punk to Come was a major record for me, perfect at the time I first heard it and still probably one of my favorite records. I love the politics, I love how it branches out from a typical hardcore sound, I love the musicianship. The drums! But before the show my friends and I reminded ourselves that Refused is still only a band and we should keep our expectations in check so that we could just go and have a good time. It’s just a show! “We’re just going to go to a fun show,” we said. But hells bells, what a fun show it was!

Once Refused went on, I barely even saw them. The view would have been much better from the seats, but I didn’t care! I didn’t care because half the time I wasn’t even really looking at them. What I really cared about was the sound and the feeling. It was beautiful!

My favorites of the night were “Liberation Frequency” and “The Deadly Rhythm.” Awesome. Fucking awesome. “Refused Party Program,” “Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine,” “Everlasting” and “Coup d’Etat” also killed. But I have to say, “New Noise” totally slayed me. It was the best. It was just wonderful.

I love that song and wanted them to play it (and I figured they would), but for some reason I wasn’t expecting it to be so intense. Maybe because it already sounds intense recorded (“Can I scream?!”). I don’t know. Then  again, it is a question of expectations and trying to temper them. Or maybe feeling like, because you’re used to the song—you know about the intro, you know about the part where it comes back in and the crowd is cheering and the drums are pounding (seriously, I just got a little shiver thinking about it!)—you don’t think it’s going to affect you that much hearing it live. It really was intense. It was powerful! It was full of fucking power! The crowd was going crazy. “The New Beat” echoed in my head all the way home, all day today—and it wasn’t even the last song. I was so happy to be on the floor dancing and singing with the crowd.

In the end, Refused totally brought it. It was worth the wait. The sound was amazing. The songs were amazing. There were these bursts of white lights—big, smoky spotlights (the kind you see at “concerts” but hardly ever at “shows”)—that added to the ambiance and feeling. Although there wasn’t a ton of talking going on, Denis Lyxzén (singer) said some things in between songs about wanting to play in San Francisco that were really touching. From my perspective, they totally had the crowd. Sadly, the politics (lyrics) are still as relevant today as they were in 1998—but if that has to be the case, we might as well have good music to help us through it all, right? Right! And today, well, my ear is still ringing, my shoes are filthy from stomping around and getting stomped on, and, to be honest, my neck hurts a little (headbang, anyone?), but it’s all totally glorious, and I had an awesome time.