Against Me!’s 9:30 Club show was one of the best concerts I’ve been to in 2017. After seeing the Foo Fighters at The Anthem the day before, I didn’t know I was craving something more intimate. After wandering around that large venue, standing in never ending lines for beer and having no cell phone service, walking into the 9:30 Club felt like coming home after a long day. It was comforting, familiar and it had all the kinks ironed out.
That’s not a knock on the Foo Fighters or The Anthem. Both the venue and the band were fantastic. When you go to the opening night of a restaurant, you expect some hiccups, and that goes double for huge and complex places like The Anthem. I don’t hold any of the long lines or overwhelmed point of service systems against them, but it still made the 9:30 Club shine in comparison. The drinks might be expensive and the venue might feel a little too packed, but man is it consistent.
The Dirty Nil kicked the night off and I was bummed to miss their set (the Green Line strikes again), but Bleached (the second opener) was the perfect appetizer to Against Me!’s main event. Mixing 80s pop sensibilities with modern punk, it was easy to find yourself dancing along and screaming at the exact same time. Their songs had an earworm quality, without feeling annoying or repetitive. Instead they amped up the audience, getting everyone ready for the rush of energy that is Against Me!
And energetic is the perfect word to describe Laura Jane Grace and her crew. Their music felt captivating and alive right out of the gate. They careened from one song to another, occasionally stopping to give context or engage with the audience, but it felt more like a raucous dance party than a carefully crafted show, and it was for the better. A little less than halfway through, they slowed down so Grace could make some touching remarks about her love for Tom Petty (which kicked off a cover of “Runnin’ Down a Dream”), but soon after that it was back to business with crowd pleasers like “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”.
Like anyone else in this city, I’m excited about all the new venues. I can’t wait to go back to The Anthem or check out Pearl Street Warehouse and Union Stage. These new venues are exciting and shiny, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed Against Me! at one of those places. Sometimes it’s nice to mix the things you know with the things you don’t.