Against Me!

support Hammonds Harrington & Destroy
author PP date 25/07/12 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

The return of Against Me! to Copenhagen for the first time in almost five years was an event that was marked by more buzz than usual because of the recent shock announcement of Tom Gabel wanting to transition into a woman, and changing his name to Laura Jane Grace, this despite having a wife and children already. The implications of hormone treatment and possible resulting friction between band members was unclear at this stage, so seeing what it all means in practice was a topic at least as much discussed as whether or not they'd still sound good even after all these years. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, and lets discuss the support band Hammonds, Harrington & Destroy first.

Hammonds, Harrington & Destroy

Few bands in Denmark are as suitable for the Against Me! support role as these guys. They're a local supergroup of sorts, featuring members of Hatesphere, The 20Belows, The Fashion and Black City, which is an odd combination that sees metal, punk, indie, and rock'n'roll influenced members together in a band that really sounds nothing like their main groups. Instead, their songs are kind of similar to the earlier Against Me! material, but where folk punk roots are visible only as mere undertones in the music that is otherwise driven through alternative/indie rock principles. They've already impressed me in the past with solid songwriting in "Only This Ocean", for instance, where their anthemic shout-along melodies should really be more popular than they currently are in Denmark. Tonight, they display a number of new songs from their next record to be released this fall, and songwise, you can expect strong material to surface. However, the band's live repertoire still needs much work. Although the vocalist starts out by almost hugging the microphone stand at times, or as if he's trying to fight it which is kind of funny, the rest of the band is in dire need of more energy. For now, the guys stand still a little too still for my liking, even though there are a few bursts of energy like when vocalist Jakob Printzlau opts to move the mic stand all the way to the front of the stage and then leans towards the crowd aggressively. But more is needed especially in the light that many of their songs sound very similar to each other.

Against Me!

Starting your set with two brand new songs nobody has heard of is a surefire way to kill off the energy dynamic of your crowd before it even started, but tonight the couple "True Trans Sol Rebel" and "Trans Dysphoria Blues" are perfectly placed at the start of the set because at this point in time, almost everyone in the venue is curiously dissecting what to think about Tom Gabel's transition into Laura Jane Grace, both in terms of his/her voice and appearance. Those who expected Laura Jane Grace to be a hot chick that now risks getting hit on by her own band members, well, you'll be disappointed because at this stage Tom Gabel/Laura Jane Grace basically looks like a transvestite drag queen more than anything else. Long hair, weird makeup, and that sort of thing. His/her (shall we just agree with his until further notice?) voice still sounds identical to how Tom Gabel's sounded before, a kind of pissed off, anarcho punk scream/shout that's certainly rawer and less polished than what we've heard on their last two albums. These had a cleaner and more mainstream radio friendly sound overall, but most of this can be attributed to the production, because tonight, these songs blend in naturally with the older songs from "As The Eternal Cowboy", "Searching For A Former Clarity" and "Reinventing Axl Rose" songs, which is refreshing for older fans like myself who've missed the more punk oriented sound of their older material.

KB18 is pretty much as packed as I've ever seen it, so there's a great crowd dynamic going as soon as the band reaches into their back catalogue and plays songs like "Don't Lose Touch" and "Cliché Guevara", not to mention "Miami" and "Sink, Florida, Sink" later on, which all create a small sing along from the 100-150 strong crowd (which makes it impossible to see anything at KB18 unless you're standing at the elevated sides or in the first three rows). What's really interesting is that for the first 16 songs, nobody in the band says anything at all. Song after song, the band lead directly into the next one without pause as they have done in the past, choosing deliberately not to address the sex change issue at all and instead demonstrating that Against Me! in 2012 is the same Against Me! we saw in 2007, and the same Against Me! we've seen in the years before that. One that plays their songs with furious tempo and one that is drenched in sweat on stage because they don't take no smoke breaks or other unnecessary pauses. Pretty much the only words uttered during the set happen just before the sixteenth song "Miami", where the band introduces the song title as the next track, but that's it. No political messages, no crowd interaction, no unnecessary chatter to the crowd. While this can be annoying with some bands, for Against Me! it works perfectly because it creates a special kind of energy and feeling to their shows, a basement vibe that still exists despite their major label ventures. This is basically what a punk band should look like regardless of how clean or polished their modern songs are.

As a result, the crowd is wild with the band, and rightly so. The set list sees a great combination of songs from all their eras, even reaching as far as the screamed-out-loud anarcho folk punk of "Reinventing Axl Rose" from ten years ago with "Pints of Guinness Make Me Strong" and "We Laugh At Danger (And Break All The Rules)". Yes, you can argue that "Baby, I'm An Anarchist", "Unprotected Sex With Multiple Partners", "Violence", "Holy Shit!" are all missing from the set list, but as a whole, Against Me! demonstrate that they haven't forgotten their roots and aren't ashamed to include these in their more accessible modern material. And as the band hits the last notes of the 22nd song of their set around midnight, leaving anything but satisfied from the venue seems weird, for Against Me! have once again demonstrated why they are considered to be one of the best live bands in punk rock despite not having any of the theatrics of much bigger artists.

Setlist:

  • 1. True Trans Soul Rebel
  • 2. Trans Dysphoria Blues
  • 3. Don't Lose Touch
  • 4. Cliché Guevara
  • 5. Clapping Hands
  • 6. I Was A Teenage Anarchist
  • 7. White Crosses
  • 8. Dead Friends
  • 9. American Abroad
  • 10. Rice and Bread
  • 11. New Wave
  • 12. Walking Is Still Honest
  • 13. Pretty Girls
  • 14. Thrash Unreal
  • 15. Black Me Out
  • 16. Miami
  • 17. The Ocean
  • 18. Pints of Guinness Make You Strong
  • 19. Sink, Florida, Sink
  • --Encore--
  • 20. Tonight We're Gonna Give it 35 %
  • 21. Impact
  • 22. We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules)

Photos by: Lykke Nielsen

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