Less than two months before his band begins a run as headliner on the heavily corporatized Warped Tour and releases its second major-label album, Rise Against singer-guitarist Tim McIlrath confronts a question: What's left to rise against?
"I've always been a fan of the saying, 'If you're not angry about something, you're not paying attention,' " McIlrath says. "If you're at a point in your life where you're not rising against something, you're not in the right place."
The Chicago quartet's biting communiques -- furiously and sometimes poignantly conveyed on the forthcoming "The Sufferer & the Witness" (July 4) -- might seem antithetical to their commercial bedfellows. Indeed, the mainstreaming of its genre has left bands such as Rise Against between punk rock and a hard place.
"There are critics of what we do and how we do it, but we've placed our emphasis on our music and our message," McIlrath says. "The Warped Tour is certainly an interesting experience for us, because we're all vegetarians, pro-animal rights, antiwar, and here you have military recruiters and giant sponsors that don't reflect our values as a band.
"But I think it's important we go out there and try to have an impact. A kid's gonna think, 'I'm gonna spend eight hours at this tour -- am I gonna talk to the Army recruiters or am I gonna see some meaningful music?' ... They have their half hour, and we have ours."
The band tonight plays the third of five sold-out shows at the Troubadour, displaying its riff- and rant-laden wares -- think "Recipe for Hate"-era Bad Religion (with spoken word and even a ballad in the mix).
Says McIlrath: "Just because it's become so broad doesn't mean punk rock has died -- it just means you have to sort through more b.s."
Rise Against, the Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 7 p.m. today through Saturday. $15 (sold out). (310) 276-6168.