Against Me have been a band since 1997, originally starting a solo project for lead singer Laura Jane Grace they released their debut album way back in 2001. Despite their long history, 2014 has undisputedly been their biggest year thus far. On the back of the release of their sixth full length album ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’, the first since Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender. The Album has been a massive success since its release; don’t be surprised to see it near the top of album of the year lists.
Billy The Kid is tonight’s support, a relative veteran of the Vancouver music scene. She has released various EP’s and full length albums under varying monikers, currently touring solo after her third solo release ‘Horseshoes & Hand Grenades’ . On the Surface, a girl and her guitar would be a strange choice to have supporting a punk band, but Billy’s charm and general sweetness win over the crowd with ease. Add that to the fact that she has a really good voice and oozes charisma. The music is folky, punky and gritty enough to prove that she is a fantastic choice to warm up the crowd before Against Me!
Against Me hit the stage promptly at 8pm, an early set due to some sort of club night after it. They arrive to a hero’s welcome, kicking straight into ‘Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong’ the opening song from their debut, ‘…Reinventing Axl Rose’, which displays some of the folky punk that AM started out playing. It proves to be the perfect opener, its speed and sing-along lyrics already getting the crowd into full participation mode. What soon becomes clear about this band is just how tight they are as unit, despite drummer Atom Willard and bassist Inge Johansson being seasoned pros, having previously played with Angels and Airways and International Noise Conspiracy respectively, both are relatively new comers to the band. Also noticeable is the huge grins across the faces of the whole band, especially on Inge, as he dances around the stage while genuinely having an excellent time.
The band plays a 22 song set list, with a perfect mixture of all the old, new and inbetweeny stuff. It’s obvious, however, that the best received songs are also the older songs. Songs like the excellent ‘Walking Is Still Honest’ and best sing-along of the night ‘Sink, Florida, Sink’ prove that although Against Me have changed a lot during the years, particularly on albums such as White Crosses, they still stay true to their more punky roots. The songs all sound note for note perfect live and Laura’s voice is full of passion and power, though it is arguably guitarist James Bowman who has the better singing voice, it’s often him who sings the more melodic parts of the songs, perfectly juxtaposing Laura’s gritty, passionate punky vocals.
Songs off ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ also get a huge response, it’s clear that a few people are here tonight who have only got into Against Me through hearing about Laura’s story and from listening to this album. They’ve picked the best songs off the albums to play tonight, that’s for sure and they all sound magnificent: the emotionally charged ‘Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ’ which seems to compare the treatment of Trans people to the treatment of war criminals, such as Bin Laden and Benito Mussolini. “You’re gonna’ hang like Benito from the Esso rafters…” and “What’s the best end you can hope for? Pity fucks and table scraps’’, proving to be surprisingly sing along worthy. The highlight of the evening for me was hearing ‘Black Me Out’, which was left out of their Download Festival performance earlier in the year. It’s easily my track of the year and the most powerful, emotional and passionate song off ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ and it is so well done tonight that I feel it’s going to stick in the memory for a long time to come.
On the back of this performance Against Me have earned all the praise that has come their way over the course of the year. They were triumphant this evening and I hope they come back soon, and if they do, check them out!
Review: Francis Sebestjanowicz
Photograph by Todd Cooper/Eugene Weekly