Laura Jane Grace is performing with urgency, joy and passion. 17 years into a musical career that began at 17, Grace is more relevant than ever. In 2014, the Gainesville, Florida punk band is not a nostalgia act. They could have been. Most of their peers are nostalgia acts.
Against Me! reinvented themselves when Thomas James Gabel became Laura Jane Grace. Songs like 2007’s “The Ocean” (Lyrics include, “If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman / My mother once told me she would have named me Laura / I would grow up to be strong and beautiful like her”) have taken on a new meaning. 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues is an incredibly personal album. The personal is now the political. No more “Miami,” now it’s about being a “True Trans Soul Rebel.” Everyone at last night’s 9:30 Club show that was in the pit for Against Me! knew the words to the new stuff. The 40-something bros from Boston wearing soccer jerseys roughing up kids knew all the words.
I wasn’t a fan from day 1. I didn’t own Against Me! as the Eternal Cowboy on vinyl in 2003. I came to the band in 2005 with the near perfect Searching for a Former Clarity. “Cliché Guevara” is a good song but “Don’t Lose Touch” was my “Losing My Edge.” The 2005 album cemented them as a must listen for every new record. 2007’s New Wave was a valiant attempt at releasing a punk album on a major label and 2010’s White Crosses wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t urgent. The new stuff is back to form. Like Grace, it’s urgent, joyful in darkness and passionate. All of that was evident last night. Even the bros thought so.
How is there always at least one bro that’s way too old to be in a pit fucking up kids? How is that guy always from Boston?
The band pummeled through their 45-minute set. Very few breaks and every song slightly sped up. The foursome was better with original drummer Warren Oakes (he left the band in 2009 to open Boca Fiesta in Gainesville). Oakes swung. Grace does not swing. She barrels through. New drummer Atom Willard barrels through songs. The juxtaposition between Oakes and Grace was good and is missed. New bassist Inge Johansson is also great, but once again, it would be nice if Andrew Seward was still there singing backup. It’s difficult to find fault in Johansson, formerly of The (International) Noise Conspiracy, who plays like a mixture of Dee Dee Ramone and Rob Trujillo, but the sound now caters to Grace and guitarist James Bowman.
Against Me! is at 9:30 Club again tonight. They’re supporting The Gaslight Anthem for a fall tour. See them. Stand near the pit. The guys from Boston will be there to remind you that you’re never too old to physically abuse children that just want to have a good time. Or you’re always too old. You should not use your size to hurt kids, regardless of the band performing. What a controversial idea. I’m so very important.
FYI: I bought two Against Me! shirts at the show. I’m wearing one now. I ordered one online to wear to the Arcade Fire show but it came late. I own multiple Against Me! shirts. I’m 31.