Against Me! didn’t slow down. For nearly an hour and a half the Florida punk band barely spoke a word to the sold out Triple Rock crowd between beating their guitar strings and shouting over the thundering kick drum. The kids in the pit were whipped up and dangerous, the older punks in the back stomped their feet and sang along. It was as if everyone had come in out of the rain to get something urgent off their chests.
Against Me! began some 16 years ago as singer Laura Jane Grace hammering her guitar at coffee shops as an angry Food Not Bombs anarchist. She was a kid trying to make sense of a world that seemingly made little. Over the last decade and a half, and through a rotating cast, Against Me! has evolved from Grace’s personal therapy and scream for some kind of solidarity, taking on the additional role as an outrage vessel for crowds like the few hundred who sweated through the Triple Rock’s HVAC.
Like their young crowds—hey, like so many of us—Against Me! and Grace are still trying to figure out their own identities. Eighteen months ago Grace came out in a Rolling Stone profile as transgender and in a Cosmopolitan interview earlier this year, she made clear the search is ongoing. Meanwhile, having recently wrapped on their sixth studio album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Against Me! has taken two new members: Atom Willard of Rocket From the Crypt on drums and Inge Johansson of The (International) Noise Conspiracy on bass.
What proved comforting Tuesday night was Against Me!’s aggression and, just like the old days, seeming insistence that things are terribly, fucking wrong. Like a throat screamed raw, Grace and the band remain an elemental force. They’re the hurricane sweeping across their native Florida. The kid warring behind her bedroom door.
And the new additions have only strengthened the band. With his kick and snare miced brightly, Willard sounded like he was pounding galvanized steel, pushing the band to hurtle forward, barely in control. Through fan favorites “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong” and “Walking is Still Honest,” “White People for Peace” and “Cliché Guevara” Johansson trashed at his beautiful Rickenbacker and often seemed close to diving into the crowd so he might share in what wonderful thing they had going.
With all the cuts on their setlist played just a little faster than on the recordings, Against Me! barreled through twenty songs with the kind of bam-bam speed that set punk apart over thirty years ago. Whatever criticism disgruntled fans have hurled Against Me!’s way—after they electrified, after they signed to a Sire, after Grace stopped yelling so much, after, after, after—it didn’t apply to their show Tuesday.
With this recent infusion of enthusiastic new members, and with Grace and lead guitarist James Bowman still playing with balled fists and snarling from the corners of their mouths, Against Me! isn’t going anywhere. For me, Tuesday made their upcoming release, the concept album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, from which they played six excellent cuts, an even brighter spot in early 2014.
Against Me! They are who they are. Never miss them.
“Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”
“I Was a Teenage Anarchist”
“Don’t Lose Touch”
“Transgender Dysphoria Blues”
“True Trans Soul Rebel”
“Turn Those Clapping Hands into Angry Balled Fists”
“Drinking with the Jocks”
“White People for Peace”
“Walking is Still Honest”
“Black Me Out”
“Sink, Florida, Sink”
“We Laugh at Danger (and Break All the Rules)”