Against Me! has certainly come a long way from the rough-edged punk band that cut its teeth in the dives of Gainesville. The band's many metamorphoses, sonic and physical, have all provided a perpetual undercurrent of change while Against Me! has enjoyed success far beyond any plotted trajectory Laura Jane Grace may have considered in her days bashing away on an acoustic guitar at house shows in a former life.
Last night, Against Me! ended its tour at Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room, and while most people were tuned into the Grammy Awards and eagerly watching popular music's continued descent into the depths of mediocrity, Against Me! shared a night of high energy rock 'n' roll punk with a capacity crowd of sweaty fans that felt as much a celebration of the band and its music as an affirmation of the reality that real music lives in human interaction, not award shows.
The show was opened by the Shondes, a punk band from Brooklyn with an activist twist, and the Sidekicks, a group hitting hard on the better parts of the current '90s emo-punk revival. Both openers were seen on stage later in the evening for some end-of-tour shenanigans, however, the Sidekicks had a great response from the crowd, many of whom were probably too young to remember when Weezer still sounded like Weezer.
Against Me! hit the stage to an absolutely massive reaction from the crowd, which exploded into a cyclone of pointed fingers and raised fists as the opening chords of "Fuckmylife666" crashed through the room. Laura Jane Grace appeared wearing a tattered Damned shirt and commanded the stage with an absolute defiance. The gravelly shout of the albums has morphed into a confident howl that retains all of the soul and conviction fans associate with Against Me! As the band kicked into the now classic, "Pints of Guiness Make You Strong," audience members surfed overhead toward the stage, with one young man landing by the monitors only to be ejected back into the churn of the crowd by a tech.
As the set went on, the band emptied the last of the tour's tank on the stage in glorious fashion. Though there is always something ceremonial about the final show of any tour, for Against Me!, there was a subtext within last night's chunking chords and howling vocals. The band has been to the brink professionally, emotionally, and artistically, and the set displayed a silent appreciation that was implied, but never quite spoken. Something that many artists may never quite understand or express.
The highlight of it all came during "The Ocean." Grace sang the song -- once a silent scream of truth hidden in plain sight -- with an emotional weight that was downright palpable in the room. With the frenzied audience bolstering every lyric sung, Laura Jane Grace turned to the side of the stage where her mother stood in the wings and sang the words of the song's third verse directly to her, reaching out with a hand as her guitar dangled helplessly at her waist.
The moment -- not mentioned nor explained to the audience -- was unbelievably heavy. For those keyed into what was happening, the moment undoubtedly added an incalculable amount of depth to what might have been seen as another night of punk-rock from the outside.
After the set proper ended, Against Me! left the stage for the brief tease before an encore. The encore, however, was stolen by the tour's opening bands, who took the band's instruments before they could return to the stage and threw down a ridiculous on stage party to Rage Against the Machine's "Sleep Now in the Fire." The crowd ate up the prank and the band returned looking bewildered and in the throes of uncontrollable laughter.
Pints of Guinness Make You Strong
Walking Is Still Honest
True Trans Soul Rebel
I Still Love You Julie
White People for Peace
I Was a Teenage Anarchist
Turn Those Clapping Hands into Angry Balled Fists
Pretty Girls (The Mover)
Don't Lose Touch
Black Me Out
Sink, Florida, Sink
We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules)
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