Night One: As the Eternal Cowboy
As soon I heard that Against Me! would be playing a two-night show in Denver, CO, I knew that I had to go. I felt as though it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Against Me! is one of those insanely influential bands, with one of the most dedicated fanbases of today. The band consists of Laura Jane Grace (vocalist, guitarist), James Bowman (guitarist, backing vocalist), Atom Willard (drummer) and Andrew Seward (bassist, backing vocalist). Fans welcomed back Seward, who was previously in the band, prior to Inge Johansson.
The venue, Summit Music Hall, was located on Blake Street. A big circular sign and lighted marquee welcomed fans to this intimate venue.
Before I found my spot on the floor, I checked out the merch table. The tables were on the left side of the venue, against the wall, up a mini makeshift staircase. I made it a point to immediately snatch up the fifteen year Fat Wreck Chords vinyl repress of Cowboy. When you enter the venue, there is a large rectangular bar, and a long staircase leading up to the mezzanine (which you could enjoy for a small fee).
On the right hand side of the venue, there was a small, two-step staircase, leading up to tall tables and chairs. I was very thankful that Summit had outlets; otherwise my phone would have died before I could have captured one photo or video of this great event. I also really enjoyed seeing that this venue in particular had All Genders Welcome/Gender Neutral restrooms.
A Giant Dog
The first act was A Giant Dog, whom I’ve had the pleasure of seeing open for Against Me! in the past. A Giant Dog (AGD) - consisted of Sabrina Ellis (vocalist), Andrew Cashen (Guitarist, vocalist), Andy Bauer (Guitarist), Graham Low (Bassist) and Daniel Blanchard (Drummer), were electrifying in their execution. Sabrina’s unique ensembles and innovative dance moves had me hooked, and the rest of the crowd seemed to like what AGD were selling. AGD played a slathering of songs from their discography, such as “Photograph”, “Bendover”, “I’ll Come Crashing” and my personal favorite, “Sex & Drugs.” They even performed a cover (originally by The Adverts) titled “My Place.” I truly enjoyed this band, and I am looking forward to seeing them live again (hopefully) soon.
Tea Leo and the Pharmacists
Following A Giant Dog was Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. This large and colorful band was very entertaining, and very diverse. I was not familiar with this band prior to the show, but I knew that Against Me! would always put a band on their bill that would deliver. Ted Leo (vocalist, guitarist), Adrienne Berry (saxophonist, percussionist, keyboardist, backing vocalist), James Canty (guitarist, backing vocalist), Marty Key (bassist, backing vocalist), Chris Wilson (drummer) and Ralph Darden (guitarist, backing vocalist) make up Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Their music was upbeat, but had heart as well. Adrienne stood out the most, with multiple instruments played, including tambourine and saxophone. Ted Leo also provided some social commentary, encouraging everyone to vote, whilst simultaneously tuning his guitar.
Laura Jane Grace (abbrv. LJG) walked out on stage, greeted by roaring cheers and hands clapping vigorously. She picked up her guitar (Nash JM63) and started to talk to the audience a bit. She explained how these two shows at Summit would be the last two Against Me! shows in the U.S/Canada for the remainder of the year. The band would be heading to Mexico and Brazil afterward, and, to quote Laura, then they are going to “go f*ck off and make a record.” You can, however, catch Laura and Atom’s side project, Laura Jane Grace and theDevouring Mothers, playing in the U.S. (Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois) in November.
LJG started playing “Walking is Still Honest” (from the record, Against Me! is Reinventing Axl Rose) by herself, and was joined by the other members of the band shortly after. They started playing other songs from Axl Rose(2002; their first studio album) – “Pints of Guinness Make you Strong”, “These Anarcho Punks are Mysterious…”, “Jordan’s 1stChoice”, and “I Still Love you Julie.”
As soon as Laura strummed the first string on her guitar, the crowd was immediately insane - rowdy, sweaty, unapologetically intense – the way old school punk shows should be. At certain points during the show, I could not even hear LJG sing over the crowd. Crowd surfers, one after another, swam their way through a sea of people, and landed in between the barricade and the stage. Some ran back into the crowd, pushed away by security, others were a little stubborn, focusing on making eye contact with LJG as they sang the lyrics together.
Laura explained that Against Me! as the Eternal Cowboy(2003), in case we hadn’t noticed, was only twenty-five minutes long, and that was even after stretching it on the recording. Against Me! attacked that record with a vengeance, playing every single song, in order, one immediately after the last. “T.S.R.(This Sh*t Rules)”, “Cliché Guevara”, “Mutiny on the Electronic Bay”, “Sink, Florida, Sink”, “Slurring the Rhythms”, “Rice and Bread”, “A Brief Yet Triumphant Intermission”, “Unsubstantiated Rumors are Good Enough for Me to Base My Life Upon”, “You Look Like I Need a Drink”, “Turn Those Clapping Hands into Angry Balled Fists”, and “Cavalier Eternal.”
Laura laughed as she mentioned that you could tell thatCowboywas made fifteen years ago, since it “references pay phones and CDs.”
AM! then played a good chunk of songs from their 2005 release, Searching for a Former Clarity. “Miami”, “From her Lips to God’s Ears (The Energizer)”, “Pretty Girls (The Mover)”, “How Low”, “Don’t Lose Touch”, and “Joy.” “Miami” and “Don’t Lose Touch” seemed to be the crowd favorites off of that particular record.
After the final line of “Don’t Lose Touch” blared through the speakers, each of the members started to put down their instruments, and Atom stepped away from his drum kit. The crowd started to cheer; there was noway that Against Me! would just end this show without an encore.
The encore consisted of two songs off of The Disco Before the BreakdownEP (the first release with Seward on bass) – “The Disco Before the Breakdown”, and “Tonight We’re Gonna Give it 35%”, and three songs from Reinventing Axl Rose– “Reinventing Axl Rose”, “Baby, I’m an Anarchist!” and “We Laugh at Danger (and Break all the Rules).”
The band stepped off stage; It was a bittersweet moment. Night one was done, but I anticipated the excitement of night two.
Night Two: New Wave
Night two started out a little differently; all members of Against Me! walked out on stage, and began playing their fourth full-length album, New Wave, starting with the title track. As I was squished and sweaty in the second row, right in front of Laura, I could not have been happier. The people in the crowd (myself included) were all packed like sardines; each of us tried to reach our arms out far enough in hopes of getting attention from the band.
Against Me! played seven more songs (“Up the Cuts”, “Thrash Unreal”, “White People for Peace”, “Stop!”, “Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart”, “Piss and Vinegar” and “Americans Abroad”), until finally announcing somewhat of an introduction to the ninth song on the roster. Calling it the “most hated Against Me! song”, Laura strummed the first chords to “Animal.” The band announced that “Animal” would probably never be performed again after that night.
“The Ocean”, the final track on New Wave, was performed next. “The Ocean” is one of those songs that everyone talks about, with the lyrics - and if I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman. My mother once told me, she would have named me Laura. I’d grow up to be strong and beautiful like her. One day I’d find an honest man to make my husband.
“White Crosses” and “I was a Teenage Anarchist” (both off of the album White Crosses) were the final two songs I heard before leaving to catch Bad Cop/Bad Cop at The Oriental Theater. I know that fans and critics have panned White Crosses, but I actually really love that record.
I left just as “Ache with Me” started to play, which is a song that NO ONE can resist.
The following songs were performed after I had left: “Spanish Moss”, “Rapid Decompression”, and “Bamboo Bones” (all off of White Crosses). “Fuckmylife666”, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”, “Unconditional Love”, “Dead Friend”, and “True Trans Soul Rebel” (off of Transgender Dysphoria Blues). The encore consisted of “Gypsy Panther” (New Wave), followed by three songs off of AM’s! latest release, Shape Shift with Me– “Crash”, “333” and “Haunting, Haunted, Haunts.” The final song performed was “Black me Out” off of Against Me’s 2014 groundbreaking record Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
I am so incredibly grateful that I had this opportunity to watch these shows.
Laura Jane Grace, in particular, has been a massive inspiration and role model to me, as well as many other people around the world. There are many words I could use to describe Laura Jane Grace, but the word I would use most often would be captivating. She is so honest and vulnerable in her approach to songwriting, and so powerful in her execution of those songs. With Laura Jane Grace, Andrew Seward, James Bowman and their beast of a drummer Atom Willard, Against Me! has broken the mold, and have surpassed their peers as being more than just a run-of-the-mill punk band. They write and perform songs about relatable subjects – politics, gender dysphoria, falling in love and lust, falling apart, death, hatred, anti-authority, anti-government – with honesty and passion. Against Me! have received their fair share of scrutiny, but have inevitably come out on top. Their fan base is stronger than ever, and it was extremely evident by all the wonderful people I met over the course of those two nights.