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All words: Jeb Gavin — All photos: Farrah Skeiky

There was a kid in the front row at the Fillmore on Tuesday night. Like, eight- maybe 10 years old. His parents brought him to see Against Me! I really hope they covered his ears while the opener was playing. Both AM! and the Icarus Line were there to open for the Cult, touring in support of their latest album Choice of Weapon. The Icarus Line is a sonic match opening for the Cult, making Against Me! the odd one out, but that didn’t seem to matter considering the small, vocal cadre of AM! fans there no matter the reason.

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Just to get this out of way, though not to slander unnecessarily: there is nothing wrong with the Icarus Line. They are a good, albeit generic alternative hard rock band. That said, they need a new front man. Their singer, an emaciated cadaver in jeans and no shirt acted like someone who once saw an Iggy Pop poster and decided that’s what he wanted to be when he grew up- without bothering to listen to a single Stooges song in the interim. Later in their mercifully brief set, this guy broke out an even worse Mitch Hedberg impersonation, mumbling at or perhaps towards the crowd. The best thing I can say about it was it ended.

Skipping to the Cult, I’d love to slam them just for the sake of being contrary, but they still kick ass. Ignoring their management’s scary/strict policy about photos, their set was a tidy mix of old standards and cuts from the new album. On that subject: if you were curious, or in need of some hard rock in your life but are scared by the Japandroids’ Celebration Rock, go buy Choice of Weapon. My favorite of the new tracks “Honey from a Knife,” came up early in the set. Not sure why I’d expect them to slow down for even a minute, but the band tore through new and old songs alike with an unexpected bounce in their step. Perhaps that was just Ian Astbury, frantic and frenetic and clearly raiding Bono’s closet from the ZooTV tour. While the other band members were staid in their antics, preferring to let the music speak for itself, Astbury kept muttering about the new album between songs, trying to sell an already eager crowd. At times it was like listening to a good telemarketer pushing a quality product on shut-ins willing to buy anything just to have someone to talk to on the phone. The hustle felt unnecessary, especially given the killer “She Sells Sanctuary” with which they closed their set. Even the expected encore of “Love Removal Machine” with Billy Duffy whipping out the “Start Me Up” aping opening chords was great but didn’t need crowing. These guys are old pros and the audience looked content, no need to convince them further.

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You may notice I neglected to mention Against Me! Sandwiched between two hard rock acts, it was weird watching Cult fans react to erudite, politicized punk rock. Despite their resurgence and garnering a new fan base around the turn of the century, the average Cult fan at this show was a solid generation removed from the average Against Me! fan. To my mind, this was exacerbated by the kid I mentioned, there with his parents, reminding me of what Craig Finn said years ago, “the kids at the shows, they’ll have kids of their own.” In spite of the age gap, in spite of rowdy kids screaming, “do
you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?” no one balked. At least not from where I was standing in the pit. I did however laugh my head off at the idea of young punks challenging an older rock audience to dig deep, and remember when the music wasn’t just a night out, away from their own kids. I know I’m projecting here, but it was still funny.

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AM! roared on stage, as is their custom, and barely paused to say hello, drawing pretty evenly from each of their albums, including their next. James Bowman stood off to the far side of the stage, stoically marching from mic to amp and back again, the calm and reasonable one. Jay Weinberg bludgeoned his drum kit for fifty minutes straight, resembling the unholy offspring of Animal the Muppet and an amphetaminic Squiddly Diddly rather than his father’s son. Andrew Seward, his baby face ringed with a short, sweaty beard, looks like a kid given a bass and told to imitate his favorite hair metal rockers. He gives off this vibe on stage like he’s the nicest guy in the world, but for some unknown medical reason screams everything he says at the top of his lungs including breakfast orders and romantic sighs. As for Laura Jane Grace, enough articles will or have been written about her transition. Much as I’ve bloviated in the past on matters unrelated to the show, I’m going to pass on this one because frankly, it didn’t seem to matter. Laura is awing on stage, strutting around on stiletto  heels, barrettes and spittle and sweat flying everywhere (some of which was cast off from Jay). She looked pissed off and pleased at the same damn time. Winking references in “The Ocean” and “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” felt everyone was in on the joke, but otherwise, this was just another in a long line of great shows.

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Excepting the opener’s dreadful lead singer, I want to believe that kid in the front row learned something. I’d like to believe everyone picked up on it; ebullient punks, older acts rocking but not relegated to cheesy nostalgia tours, everyone in the room enjoying themselves for very, very different reasons. Wandering through a crowd of Cult fans towards the end of the night and smelling expensive cologne and cheap weed, I thought to myself: some things change and some things never do. If that’s the take-away from an evening of good music, let’s hope we’re all on board.

Setlists:

Against Me!
True Trans Soul Rebel
Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Don’t Lose Touch
Turn Those Clapping Hands into Angry Balled Fists
I Was a Teenage Anarchist
White Crosses
Dead Friend
Black Me Out
New Wave
Pretty Girls (The Mover)
The Ocean
Pints of Guinness Make You Strong
Sink, Florida, Sink

The Cult
Lil’ Devil
Honey from a Knife
Rain
Lucifer
Nirvana
Embers
Fire Woman
The Wolf
Wildflower
Phoenix
For the Animals
Spirit Walker
She Sells Sanctuary
(E) Love Removal Machine

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