Sunday, May 4, 2014

Live Review: Against Me! @ Webster Hall

Since their inception, Against Me! have had a revolving door of musicians come in and out of the band, yet, none made headlines the way singer Tom Gabel did in 2012 when he came out to Rolling Stone that he was going to become a woman named Laura Jane Grace. Since that interview arrived, Grace has been the strong front woman of the abrasive Florida punks. Earlier this year, Against Me released their sixth record, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, a strong contender for album of the year as it is the most important punk rock album since Green Day's American Idiot and one of the most important punk rock albums ever made.  The record is about Grace's transformation and dealing with her new life, body, and spirit, but still being true to yourself. It is heartbreaking as it is brave, and a record that we need for our times in order for people to accept one another. As Against Me! hit the road for the second leg of their U.S. tour in support of this triumphant album, they arrived at the iconic Webster Hall on Saturday night.

As the crowd packed in with anticipation, at 8:45pm, the band strutted on stage and Grace gracefully told the crowd, "Hi, New York! Thanks for coming out, we are Against Me!" before they kicked into the thunderous "True Trans Soul Rebel." While the crowd sung back every word of the song, it was then they gave the audience the classic Against Me! fan favorites, "Cliché Guevera,"and "New Wave." With a fantastic mix of old and new songs together, the band had the crowd going crazy. With non-stop crowd surfing, a few stage divers, small circle pits breaking out and thousands of fists punching the air as if they were pledging alliance to the words being delivered of Grace's mouth. This all came full circle when the song "Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Ballad Fists," was played after their biggest singles, "Don't Lose Touch" and "I Was A Teenage Anarchist." As the band vigorously moved on stage and thunderously plowed through their setlist, the most touching and poignant moment came when Grace addressed the enthusiastic New York audience saying, "Since each of you bought a ticket and are here, you are now subscribing to a trans lifestyle. So, if you hear or see someone acting homophobic or hateful, you are going to do something about it." As the audience cheered and gave Grace the confidence she needed and response she wanted, it made the crowd which was a mixture of old school punks, college students, longtime fans, new fans, of difference sexualities, creeds, races, and genders unite. At that moment, "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" was played and it never had so much meaning as it did then, hearing that song, Grace's anthem and the anthem for so many like her, it was a moment that people will talk about for years to come. By 10pm, they wrapped their main set with 2007's "The Ocean," the song in which a then Tom Gabel explained that if he was a woman, he would have been named "Laura." Back then, it was his hint to listeners of what was to come, now, Laura Jane Grace stands tall and proud of the woman she is.

As they retreated to the wings, the audience chanted "Laura! Laura!" then she came back on stage to say, "Okay, two things. No. 1, backstage you chanting 'Laura' sounds like 'Moron! Moron!' Second, don't embarrass me in front of my band like that, there are four of us. This is a band." The crowd obliged and began chanting "Against Me! Against Me!" As the rest of the band returned for a three song encore, the night was finished early by 10:15 so Webster Hall could transform into its famous dance club, but before disco balls and strobe lights would take another audience into the night, one of the most relevant and meaningful concerts of the year was just performed.