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updated: 1/24/2012 5:56 AM

Rise Against's punk rock passion originated in suburbs

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  • The popular punk band Rise Against is, from left to right, guitarist Zach Blair of Austin, Texas, drummer Brandon Barnes of Norridge, lead vocalist Tim McIlrath of Arlington Heights, and bass guitarist Joe Principe of Downers Grove.

      The popular punk band Rise Against is, from left to right, guitarist Zach Blair of Austin, Texas, drummer Brandon Barnes of Norridge, lead vocalist Tim McIlrath of Arlington Heights, and bass guitarist Joe Principe of Downers Grove.
    courtesy of Interscope/Geffen/A&M

  • The popular punk band Rise Against is, from left to right, drummer Brandon Barnes of Norridge, guitarist Zach Blair of Austin, Texas, lead vocalist Tim McIlrath of Arlington Heights, and bass guitarist Joe Principe of Downers Grove.

      The popular punk band Rise Against is, from left to right, drummer Brandon Barnes of Norridge, guitarist Zach Blair of Austin, Texas, lead vocalist Tim McIlrath of Arlington Heights, and bass guitarist Joe Principe of Downers Grove.
    courtesy of Interscope/Geffen/A&M

  • Video: Rise Against "Make it Stop"

 

In the early 1990s, Joe Principe could usually be found at McGregor's in Elmhurst or at Metro in Chicago, seeing punk rock bands like Bad Brains, Bad Religion, Green Day, Screeching Weasel or Naked Raygun.

"We would go see any band play, whether we knew them or not," said Principe, 37, who back then was a skateboarding teen at Holy Cross High School in River Grove. "It was such a good time for music in the early '90s, especially for me."

Now it's Principe and his band, Rise Against, whom punk rock fans come out to see. In the midst of a world tour, the area's most successful punk band returns home Friday for a show at Chicago's UIC Pavilion.

The band -- famous for its angry music filled with political and social commentary -- has strong suburban roots. Principe, a native of Melrose Park, now lives in Downers Grove; drummer Brandon Barnes lives in Norridge; and lead singer and songwriter Tim McIlrath grew up in Arlington Heights and still lives there. Only guitarist Zach Blair lives outside the area, in Austin, Texas.

Rise Against's Chicago show will feature songs from their new CD, "Endgame," which tackles topics like economic disparity, the casualties of war and even suicide among gay teens in the MTV Award-nominated song, "Make it Stop: September's Children."

"'Endgame' is a story of starting over and rebuilding," Principe said of their sixth studio album. "Just in general, as a society, we try to do these little fixes ... and after a while, we're putting a bunch of Band-Aids on something that's falling apart. And sometimes you have to start over."

As their song, "Architects," says:

"Do you still believe in all the things

That you stood by before?

Are you up and on the front lines

Or at home keeping score?

And do you care to be the layer

Of the bricks that seal your fate?

Or would you rather be the architect

Of what we might create? Go"

Lyrics like these led A.V. Club's music critic to hail McIlrath as "one of the most radical voices in mainstream music today, not to mention one of its most aggressive songwriters."

"Tim writes from a personal perspective of everyday life," Principe said. "It's not just focused on one topic. For us, we need more. It's a little bit more rewarding to cover all that we're feeling."

Also rewarding to them was the work they did for the newly released multidisc CD, "Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International." Rise Against was among the dozens of well-known artists chosen for the project.

Principe admits he'd never listened to much Dylan, but after the band members reviewed his work, they chose to cover one of Dylan's darker songs, "Ballad of Hollis Brown." The song's about a destitute farmer who's so distraught by poverty that he kills his family and then himself.

"It was a song we could make into our own. There's not a chorus ... and we felt we could kind of update it a little bit for 2012," he said. "It was a matter of trying not to ruin his work but bringing some Rise Against to the table. The end result, it came out great."

Principe said he's been happy to see the anti-establishment music that was popular during Dylan's heyday return to punk music. He thought punk lost its political edge in the late 1990s and took on a darker, more gothic, relationship-driven message. But when Rise Against's star began to rise in 2003, their social and political protest music was embraced by punk fans.

Active in numerous causes including animal rights, Rise Against got involved in the 2008 presidential election, supporting Barack Obama. Principe says they haven't yet gotten behind a candidate this year, despite a false tweet that they supported Ron Paul (their Twitter account was hacked, the band reported).

Rise Against is booked through 2013, bringing back the energy and spirit they heard as kids growing up in the suburbs.

"If you were angry about something, the music expressed it," Principe said.

-- Jamie Sotonoff

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for suburban people in showbiz to feature. If you know of someone, send a note to dgire@dailyherald.com and jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

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