Last night's Against Me! show at El Corazon was the greatest Against Me! show I've ever witnessed. I've seen the band half a dozen times over the last 10+ years, including in a basement in Tacoma, the old Vera Project on Fourth Ave, the Capitol Hill Block Party, and Neumos. Last night's show blew them all away.
El Corazon, as a friend aptly declared, felt like a mouth. It was sticky, smelly, and at least 98.6 degrees. Just standing there, doing nothing but waiting for the band to take the stage, caused sweat to drip down every body part.
Being in that room, though, when the band took the stage, was worth every second of raisiny fingertips and heat stroke.
I wasn't happy the last time I saw Against Me!, when they played Neumos in 2010. The band performed like an over-oiled machine—stripped clean of any recklessness, any energy that had always made their shows feel like a sweaty, happy sing-along with hundreds of your best friends. It sounded good, but it felt like nothing.
I knew last night would be different. Earlier this year the band's singer (formerly known as Tom Gabel) bravely came out as transgender. She announced she was changing her name to Laura Jane Grace, she started hormone treatment, and last night was the first time Against Me! played Seattle since Laura began transitioning. From the moment the band walked out on stage, it felt like the happiest, craziest, celebration of life I've ever experienced at a show.
The band barely spoke, but blasted through over 20 songs with smiles on their faces—from newer material like "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" and "Drinking With the Jocks," all the way back to favorites from Reinventing Axl Rose ("We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules" and "Those Anarcho Punks are Mysterious").
About halfway through the set Laura grinned and announced into the microphone: "Hi, I'm Taylor Swift, and this is my band Against Me!"* and the room exploded with cheers. She carried herself with inspiring confidence. People in the crowd screamed out "I love you!" They jumped onstage to sing along with her, and they chanted "Laura Jane Grace" to bring the band back for an encore. If there was ever any worry in Laura's mind that her fanbase would resist her, run the other way, or balk at the sight of her in a black slip dress with chin-length curly hair, hearing a room full of fans scream your name over and over again, begging to see you play just one more song, surely squelched all of those fears.
It wasn't all about Laura, though. The whole band was terrific. Drummer, Jay Weinberg, would not sit down. He kept standing up from his stool, flailing his arms around in the air, mouthing the words to all the songs, reaching out towards the crowd from behind his drumset, and making some really goofy faces—he was hilarious to watch.
It was a fucking spectacular show—one I will never forget, one I always knew (or at least hoped) Against Me! could still deliver even when they clearly outgrew the basements. I'm so glad the band still has some fire inside.
Here's video of "Thrash Unreal":
And "We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules":
More videos and a setlist after the jump.
And, the setlist (click the song link to see video from the show):
1. "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" 2. "Cliche Guevara" 3. "I Still Love You Julie" 4. "Teenage Anarchist" 5. "Don't Lose Touch" 6. "White Crosses" 7. "True Trans Soul Rebel" 8. "Turn Those Clapping Hands into Angry Balled Fists" 9. "T.S.R." 10. "New Wave" 11. "Walking Is Still Honest" 12. "Pretty Girls (the Mover)" 13. "Drinking With the Jocks" 14. "Miami" 15. "Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious" 16. "Rice and Bread" 17. "Better Days" 18. "Black Me Out" 19. "Thrash Unreal" 20. "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong" 21. "Sink, Florida, Sink"
*I am 99.9% sure that's what she said. But the heat, the brain, the joy—it was all melting together. If I am wrong, tell me. If I am right, tell me... so I can sleep tonight knowing I did not hallucinate the whole thing.