Against Me! w/ Tony Molina and Big Eyes @ The Rave
May 14, 2014
For a band whose very name indicates opposition and struggle, Against Me!’s
live performance is characterized by exuberance and fulfillment, an expression
of a band that’s landed exactly where they want to be. Self-producing
their latest release, the intensely personal Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Against Me! have positioned themselves
as much more than a group of angry young Floridians. While they remain punk
anthem extraordinaires, Blues exposes
the raw nerves beneath, and aims at the tricky, tender issues of identity,
gender, acceptance and love.
On tour in support of “Blues,” Against Me! played to a full house at The Rave on Wednesday. The show veered from hook-heavy high spirits to deeply personal songs of honesty and hope – all without missing a beat.
Pop-punk aficionados Big Eyes started the night, and were an artful choice as tour mates for Against Me!. Both bands favor insistent guitar lines and raw vocals, and Big Eyes more than held their own during their set, though they initially played to a sparse crowd.
Tony Molina, wearing a Cro-Mags shirt and drinking wine straight from the bottle, represented a more punk musical aesthetic, managing to simultaneously shred like J Mascis and emote like Rivers Cuomo. Each song was an ecstatic burst—most were less than a minute—chock full of hooks that call to mind Weezer, if Weezer favored a basement punk show rather than the garage.
From hardscrabble punk band to major label rock stars and back again, Against Me!’s strengths are numerous, and one would be remiss to not mention front woman Laura Jane Grace’s generosity and resilience in unabashedly detailing her transition experience in rock album form. Live, she gave each song her all, and demonstrated the magnetism of full throttle, no-holds-barred honesty. As a whole, the band plays with a seasoned stamina and a true joy that made watching them a blast whether you knew every song or not. Blues, as an album, is a powerful narrative, one that pulses with urgency and courage, and live, Against Me! delivers these traits and more. While their newer songs deal with complex issues, Against Me! never stops being a rock band, and the smoldering intensity of the music itself only served to elevate the subject matter and engage the entire crowd.
Blazing through older favorites like “Walking Is Still Honest,” New Wave” and on into more recent gems like “I Was a Teenage Anarchist,” Against Me! offered the enthusiastic crowd a tour through their past and into their present. Leaning heavily on their new material, the setlist offered “True Trans Soul Rebel,” “Dead Friend,” and the superb, unforgettable song that closes Blues, “Black Me Out,” during which it seemed the entire room shouted along. It isn’t every day that you get to hear the crowd at a rock club shout “Does God bless your transsexual heart, true trans soul rebel?,” but Against Me! made it happen. And, if that’s any indication, there isn’t much they won’t be able to do.