Against Me!, with Laura Stevenson and Cheap Girls
April 6th @ 8pm
The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC
T. and I have been a team when it comes to two bands, which to me have had similar histories for their lead singers: Say Anything (who we will be seeing for a sixth time in June) and Against Me! (who we saw together for the third time Sunday night). We saw Against Me! once at Warped Tour and once a couple of years later at The Handlebar in Greenville, SC, which is the concert at which I was sucked into a mosh pit and punched in the face. (I'm not big on mosh pits.) This concert was the last of Against Me!'s tour supporting their new album, which is the first since their lead singer, Laura Jane Grace, came out as transgender and began living as a woman.
Against Me!'s performing style has always been one song to another, almost without pause most of the time, and constant sweaty screaming and wailing while an aggressive mosh pit blossomed in front of the stage. (The Orange Peel, thankfully, has an enormous ceiling fan that keeps the hall from overheating.) Against Me! has always been an exceptionally tense and taut band live, which I chalked up to the pretty political punk rock that they play, but a change in lineup over the last year (the drummer and bassist are both recent additions, but the guitarist and lead singer have been the same since 2002), along with a new album and Grace's transition, have seriously changed the band's behaviour on stage in what T. and I both think is a really good way. Their latest album is a lot different from their pervious sound, but it's still Against Me! in there, it's still the same music. But it's being performed by people who are clearly happy, and that's something I couldn't say with any certainty before.
Say Anything has followed a similar path--massive lineup changes over time, major struggles by the lead singer/mastermind of the band until reaching an acceptance of who he is and finally being loved--and the changes have reflected on the band in a healthy way. Their last tour in 2012 (which we also went to at the Peel) was incredible. I'd never seen their lead singer so happy. And it made me happy.
I've been nervous to see Against Me! again because of what happened at The Handlebar, but I'm glad that T. dragged me out to see them. We parked in the back on some bar stools and took it all in. Against Me! played some new music but they also dug deep into their discography for some of the songs they performed on Sunday, and the crowd was deeply appreciative of that. We're getting a little old for the punk rock scene (we were definitely among the older 30% of the audience and I was the only one in the room in a cardigan), but we were still happy to be there. And to see a woman on the stage clearly beaming from all the way in the back, finally at peace and being who she is and doing what she wants, was inspiring. She put on a tiara at the end of the encore, and the Peel nearly fell apart from all the screams and cheers.
It's amazing what a little love can do.