"Is there anyone in this room that wants to have a motherfucking good time?" screamed Cancer Bats' frontman Liam Cormier. Of course everyone did. And the Cancer Bats made it happen. The band thrashed through their songs—headbanging, encouraging circle pits, saying the word "motherfucker" every chance they got—and the crowd ate it all up. While their newer stuff is a little more stoner metal than I remember them being in the past, a lot of their songs were still delivered with a good-time/party vibe, like a hardcore band that had been listening to a lot of Appetite for Destruction during the song-writing process.
The highlight was when they delivered a bombastic cover of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage," a song I used to love but (as Segal with and his relationship with "Love Will Tear Us Apart"), it's a song I always thought I never ever needed to hear again. Especially when being played by another band—a Canadian metal band. But it was awesome—huge energy, playful but still bad ass. With it, the circle pit grew. By the time the Cancer Bats were done, everyone in the first half of the crowd was smiling and sweaty. That was the way to open the show.
Jaguar Love—ex-Blood Brothers Cody Votolato and Johnny Whitney (with an unidentified live drummer, anyone know who that was?)—didn't receive such a warm reception. As they set up on stage, a group of teens behind me were already taunting them, yelling out zingers like "What is this, Owl City?" and "They're gonna do a Flock of Seagulls cover!" There were a few "Fuck you!"s and "You suck!" too.
Things didn't really get better once they started playing. Johnny Whitney's notoriously bratty vocals sounded even whinier than they did in his Blood Brothers days, as he competed with JL's metallic, buzzing synth riffs. It was a sleazy punk rock disco, but hardly anyone was dancing. I don't know if it was Whitney's over-teased hair and shiny high tops, or the dance beats mixed with shrill screams, but I was starting to have one too many Brokencyde flashbacks. The crowd, save for the first few rows of kids against the stage, was starting to turn on them more and more. Halfway through the set, the boos began to overpower the cheers.
The turning point was when they did a cover of their own. It wasn't Flock of Seagulls, but maybe that would've been a better idea. They trashed Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart," a song generally reserved for drunk soccer moms at the office karaoke party (number two to Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen). Their dirty synth crashed into the song's classic melody and Whitney yowled out "Coooome on, coooome on, take it!" I did not like it. I do not want to hear it again.
The sold-out crowd was understandably restless by the time Against Me! took the stage—the band could've farted on a snare drum and they probably would've moshed to it, so they happily made up for any energy the band lacked at first.
Tom Gable didn't say a word as Against Me! took the stage and blasted into their opening song, "Because of the Shame," a new tune that will probably be on their upcoming record White Crosses. It sounded a lot like a Gaslight Anthem song. (You can hear a shoddy recording of them playing it last year here.)
Gable and Co. went straight into one song after another. They didn't even introduce the keyboard player they had tucked off to the side of the stage (and why he was there, exactly, I'm not sure—I heard keyboards only once, in the intro to another new tune called "Modern Life in the Western World"). They played stuff from Reinventing Axl Rose, Searching For a Former Clarity, one song from Gabel's solo release ("Amputations"), and a few more new tunes that were pretty good but not great (I feel like they've been listening to more Springsteen than ever before).
The only time anyone on stage spoke was when Gabel gave one quick introduction for the new "High Pressure Low" ("This song's for anyone out there who feels like they're losing their mind") and one obligatory "Thanks for having us." But despite the lack of on-stage personality, Against Me! still sounded great. They always have, they probably always will. Even if their newer material sounds more polished and less passionate. It was obvious that they had been playing these songs night after night for forever, and the songs were delivered with enough energy to appease the raucous crowd. But sometimes the band made it look so effortless that they ended up looking bored, like a band for hire. Which, essentially they are, I suppose. But they don't have to rub our faces in it.
Only when they came back for an encore, in fact, did they give any sign at all that they were having a good time. Gabel told a somewhat lengthy story about the last time he came to Seattle and almost OD'd... on Red Bull. And he talked about how Cody Votolato from Jaguar Love sat with him in the Emergency room while doctors pumped saline into his body to stave of dehydration. He praised Votolato for being a good friend and thanked Jaguar Love for playing, and everyone cheered. There was a lot more cheering for that, in fact, than there was for any of Jaguar Love's set.
Against Me!'s setlist:
1. "Because of the Shame" (new song) 2. "New Wave" 3. "I Still Love You Julie" 4. "Don't Lose Touch" 5. "White Crosses" (new song) 6. "Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists" 7. "Amputations" (from Tom Gabel's solo EP Heart Burns) 8. "Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong" 9. "Reinventing Axl Rose" 10. "High Pressure Low" (new song) 11. ??? 12. "Rice and Bread" (maybe?) 13. "Americans Abroad" 14. "Modern Life in the Western World" (new song) 15. "Miami" 16. "Sink, Florida, Sink" 17. "Stop" 18. "Thrash Unreal"
19. "T.S.R. (This Shit Rules)" 20. "White People for Peace" 21. "Walking Is Still Honest" 22. "Baby, I'm an Anarchist!"