It’s been an interesting road for Laura Jane Grace. From the punk-folk star with Against Me! to a transgender icon, there is a richness and unique history that she is currently creating. Playing mostly stripped down songs from Against Me!’s catalog, the songs not only took on deeper meaning, but also incurred a more intense listening that was evident by the perfectly-silent crowd at World Cafe Live at the Queen. Continue reading →
“Proficiency” was the common thread throughout this particularly brisk Friday evening at the Mann Center’s Skyline Stage. A thoroughly stacked lineup, it’s tough (and downright reductive) to refer to the bands who played before The Gaslight Anthem as “openers.” Based on the draw each act produced during their respective sets, Friday night’s audience would heartily agree. Continue reading →
Punk rockers Against Me! will take to the Trocadero stage tonight in support of their latest album Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Frontwoman Laura Jane Grace will soon star in her own reality series for AOL which follows the singer’s journey through personal and professional struggles that have influenced the new record. Watch them perform “Fuckmylife666” on Letterman below and get tickets here.
Part of the appeal of the annual South By Southwest festival is no doubt wandering from venue to venue in downtown Austin, catching bits of sets by dozens of new bands, seeing where the music and the crowd may lead you.
But there’s something to be said for finding a venue – or party, or showcase, or whatever – with a lineup that’s solid through and through, and just parking yourself there for the night. For me, Brooklyn Vegan’s show at the Red 7 Patio last night was just that. The headlining set by Florida’s Against Me! would have been enough to draw me in – their new rager Transgender Dysphoria Blues is alreadyone of the year’s best, and they were at the top of my bands-to-see list – but they shared the bill with a enticing set of their (mostly) punk scene peers, from Lancaster screamers Placeholder to Jersey popsters The Front Bottoms. And, for the most part, all the acts delivered.
California comedian / musical Harvey Sid Fisher got the night to a light start with a set that was briefly fun and mercifully brief. His shtick is pretty one-note – he’s old, and he’s raunchy, and he sings about raunchy old guy things, and yeah. It’s the kind of humor that wears thin quickly, and while he had the modest crowd chuckling at first (many were still queued up in the alley behind the venue), he wrapped it up as their attention began to wane.
In contrast, Placeholder followed with a full-throttle set that was too brief. These guys might not have the most accessible sound (if you’ve got an aversion to growly vocals, they aren’t for you) but their energy and chemistry are undeniable, and captivating to watch. Frontman Brandon Gepfer is a very physical performer, flinging himself around the stage, into the speakers and his bandmates who reciprocated right back. He told the crowd that they’re used to playing “basements with like ten people,” so this was the biggest gathering they’d played for on tour. Would have been awesome had they played for a little longer, though, since the patio was just filling up when they left the stage, setting the room up for Gainesville’s Frameworks and their melodic spin on late 90s hardcore (a la At The Drive-In, Boy Sets Fire).
Cheap Girls from Lansing, Michigan was the only real disappointing set of the night – their songs are tremendously hooky power pop earworms akin to early Replacements jams, but their stage presence is nil; singer Ian Graham stands at the mic with his eyes closed, Adam Aymor riffs on guitar with his head buried in his hair, and the crowd predictably bobs their heads while checking Twitter on their phones.
The Front Bottoms, on the other hand, are pure interaction – sing/screamalongs, hi-fives, someone buying singer-guitarist Brian Sella a Guinness and daring him to chug it. The audience packed in towards the front of the stage, and became a mass of pushing, shoving, smiling bodies by the time “Twin-Size Mattress” rolled around Amusing aside: a dude in the crowd who books shows in Orlando talked before their set about how he’d never seen or heard of them, but everybody told him they were great. I concurred, and he countered “But they’re acoustic, though?” “Well, he plays an acoustic guitar,” I explained. “But they’re pretty badass.” “Um, I’ll take your word for it,” he replied.
I guess “badass” is relative, considering he might have been there to see brutal hardcore outfit Touche Amore, who absolutely pummeled the stage with their performance that followed – think the physicality of Placeholder, amped up about five times. Think of the sense of tension and catharsis of Converge, Paint it Black or Pissed Jeans. Again, not a sound for everybody, but holy cow what a spectacle to watch.
Wrapping the night around 1 a.m. was Against Me!, playing an hour-plus set highlighting the new LP and digging back through the band’s catalog for sure-fire crowd-pleasers like the title track of 2007’s New Wave and the singalong “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” from 2010’s White Crosses. The crowd that had begun to dwindle slightly – it was a super chilly night for an outdoor show – but the people who stayed were massive enthusiasts on par with the devotion The Front Bottoms and Touche Amore saw, slamming and swaying and screaming along.
Since singer-guitarist Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in 2012, the band kind of went into reset mode: as she said in a Spin interview back in January, the path to the new album almost destroyed Against Me!, but with the enlistment of new players and perhaps her tightest collection of songs – the album is simultaneously anthemic, provocative, insightful and massively catchy – the band persevered. The patio was a smaller space than Against Me! has probably performed at in a long while, but if the reception the band saw – and the energy it brought to the stage – is any indication, it will prove to be a rare occurrence. Check out photo highlights and a full-show gallery below. Continue reading →
This past weekend, Against Me! played the Chameleon Club in Lancaster in a preliminary celebration of the new Transgender Dysphoria Blues. It’s the band’s sixth LP, but as NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson points out in his First Listen review of the album, it can’t help but feel like a debut, since it’s Against Me!’s first full-length since singer Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel) came out as transgender.
As Thompson puts it, while “she still barks her lyrics with fiercely assertive intelligence — with a voice as yet largely unchanged from the one in the band’s earlier work…Against Me!’s subject matter can’t help but be turned on its head”:
At times joltingly profane, Transgender Dysphoria Blues doesn’t let up for 29 brisk minutes, but real tenderness and vulnerability surfaces in the melee. In “Unconditional Love,” Grace repeats the self-lacerating line, “Even if your love was unconditional / it still wouldn’t be enough to save me” — a terrifying and revealing notion, even as Grace remains by all accounts happily married to her wife.
Against Me!’s music only addressed gender issues in passing before Transgender Dysphoria Blues, so the album certainly qualifies as a left turn. But the end result is just as catchy and anthemic as the terrific speedball punk records that precede it. Gabel always told the truth as he saw it, so it makes sense that Laura Jane Grace would do the same, with the added benefit of comfort and courage in her own skin.
Listen to Transgender Dysphoria Blues in its entirety here via NPR Music. Below, watch some fan footage of the show at the Chameleon (which also included sets from The Shondes and The Sidekicks).
Coming from London, psych rock band Toy makes a stop Kung Fu Necktie tonight, on tour in support of their second album Join The Dots. Drawing influence from early electronic music, and some rock from the eighties and early nineties, Toy makes sonic walls of raw guitar, clashing drums, and some straight up noisy electronics. Check out the music video for “Join The Dots” below to see how they can go from laid back to in your face so easily. Toy will be joined by Spires, Far Out Fangtooth, and The Black Hollies. This 21+ show is only $10, get tickets here.
Against Me have announced a tour in support of their upcoming Transgender Dysphoria Blues LP, bringing the Gainesville natives to Lancaster’s Chameleon Club on January 11th. “Black Me Out,” the latest single from the new album, could be seen as a return to the punk outfit’s Eternal Cowboy days with its aggressive tone and unforgiving lyrics. Following up 2010’s White Crosses, frontwoman Laura Jane Grace framed the record around “gender dysphoria, the loss of a young friend and pure self discovery, as well as love and ultimate acceptance.” Tickets and information will be available here. Listen to “Black Me Out” below.
Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! is embarking on a short acoustic solo tour, and she’ll be stopping by Milkboy tonight to play some new material. Against Me! is releasing their new record, Transgender Dysphoria Blues sometime this year, which explores a lot of the struggles Grace (formerly Tom Gabel) went through as a transgender woman. To preview the album, Grace will be making the True Trans 7″ available on tour. Check out a performance of the new track “True Trans Soul Rebel” below.
Last week, the first new Against Me! material in a few years saw the light of day. While a full concept album Transgender Dysphoria Blues is in the works, Against Me! released a two-song EP on Tuesday featuring two brand new acoustic songs, “FuckMyLife666” and “True Trans Rebel Soul.” The two songs are incredibly intimate acoustic ballads featuring nothing more than frontwoman Laura Jane Grace and her acoustic guitar. This is perhaps some of the group’s best work to date and you can download it for free below. And if you want a chance to see these songs performed live, Laura Jane Grace is embarking on a small solo tour specifically built around the new album, which includes a stop at Milkboy on August 10th.