Against Me! @ the Gothic TheatreBy | October 23rd, 2008 | No Comments »
Against Me! seems to care little for its detractors’ opinions — and that’s a good thing. Photos by Joe McCabe.
For most of its career Against Me! has reveled in its position as a lightning rod for the punk community’s disdain, gleefully weathering — and oftentimes inciting — tirades from the punk-rock peanut gallery for its alliances with ever-bigger labels, its spot playing the too-safe Warped Tour and the continual reinvention of its sound. It’s clear why the band’s been so secure in its decisions: When you’re this good, nobody’s going to shout you down.
Dressed in simple black T-shirts and jeans combo, the foursome took the stage at the Gothic Theatre on Tuesday in front of a 20-foot high snarling-cat image lifted from the cover of its most recent album, last year’s “New Wave,” and wasted no time in, once again, proving its mettle. That didn’t take long. After touring on the album for nearly a year and a half, it had the drill down. Tom Gabel didn’t need to waste time warming up the crowd with unnecessary hellos, and led his band as it charged through a set primarily pulled from its two most recent albums.
“New Wave” unabashedly flaunted the band’s conversion from a folk-punk set to a capital-R rock band as the act paced the stage. A roots-rock guitar intro led into “Miami,” one of the fiercest installations from the band’s roots/punk/Replacements fixation, and “White People For Peace” hammered on the same direction.
“Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious,” the band’s sympathetic, yet guardedly distanced, ode to proletarian revolution, and the Condoleeza Rice-baiting “From Her Lips to God’ Ears (The Energizer)” reaffirmed the band’s position as the closest thing to The Last Angry Band that the MySpace generation is likely to get. Just to show its softer side, Against Me! hit heartbreak territory with “Pretty Girls (The Mover)” and “Borne of the FM Waves of the Heart,” with guitarist James Bowman valiantly, if somewhat futilely, trying to take over half the duet as recorded with Tegan Quin for “New Wave.”
“Thrash Unreal,” which cunningly blends a keen ear for pop hooks with the band’s snarling no-nonsense punk, shut down the main set, and, after a quick breather, Gabel returned by himself for “Only Cowards Sing at Night,” off his upcoming solo EP, before the balance of the band rejoined him for a few classic cuts.
The onstage action was only part of the experience, though. From the moment Against Me! took the stage, the Gothic was imbibed with the sort of energy most bands only experience in their dreams. Against Me! diehards mingled everywhere in near-capacity crowd, a mix of Warped Teens, grizzled punk veterans and other assorted twentysomthings, and freely sang along with Gabel’s every line.
Fists pumped in the air, a crowded floor level bounced instead of slam-danced and, for a few brief moments, all the in-fighting, posturing and pretense synonymous with a punk crowd seemed checked at the door. Not too shabby for a band that perennially inspires such hatred among half the punk world, huh?
Opener Future of the Left wasn’t as optimistic as the headliner, but it worked nearly as well for it. Singer Andy Falkous’ guitar shrieked like an angle grinder on corrugated tin, and bassist Kelson Matthias’ sludgy, rumbly bass was big and ominous enough to fill up the space left over.
The Steve Albini-inspired tunes like “The Lord Hates a Coward,” “Adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood,” “Fingers Become Thumbs” and “My Gymnastic Past” were loose and filled with more feedback than the band probably would have liked, and the snide humor at the heart of its songs was probably lost on the mosh pit. Still, the trio mustered enough raw intensity and malevolent pop to command respect.
It didn’t hurt that midway through its finale, Matthias launched himself, bass in tow, into a very confused pit of slam-dancers, managing not to poke any eyes out and continue to carry a tune. Shortly after that, he scurried onto the barrier, scaled the stage-left balcony and finished the song from the second story, letting a madly grinning Falkous conjure up a wall of shifting distortion from below. Now that’s an exit.
Matt Schild edits Aversion.com and is a regular Reverb contributor.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and regular Reverb contributor.