Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Summer Live Part III: Against Me! @ JBTV

Felipe M

The following is part of a series to wrap up the 2nd half of my 2010 concert calendar. It is proving to be a long winded afair, but DAMMIT, I will finish it up. By the time you read through this story, we would be half way done with this journey. Coming up next: AGAINST ME! on JBTV.

July 3rd, Against Me! Live @ JBTV Studio:

Well, well, well Against Me!, we meet again! I've seen this band 5 times in my lifetime, more than any other band (I have seen both Thrice and Bad Religion 4x's). The 5th time left such a bad impression with me that I decided that I would never follow this band again. Seriously! I was going to be done with them. Their major label debut known as New Wave was pretty solid, but for Against Me! standards, it would be pretty subpar. I can sit here and talk about how mediocre New Wave is, but that would be stating the obvious. The fact is, I wasn't going to even give the new, much anticipated album White Crosses a chance either as I decided to completely turn my back on this band--well, not too complete... maybe 3/4 of my back was turned....

... Made it a lot easier to face forward when Ricardo's brother, Gabe informed me that he had an extra pass to see Against Me! perform an acoustic set at the JBTV studios, but wasn't sure who he should take.....

For those who don't know what JBTV is, it is a local TV show here in Chicago starring a hippie-looking, Gandalf the gray wizard look-a-like, Jerry Bryant. The show is awesome as it showcases local and established music acts and other bands in the world of underground, indie, punk, alternative, or simply put non-mainstream music world. The show also airs live performances from their sweet-looking soundstage where a few lucky people can see a band live perform in the most intimate of settings--and lots and lots of cameras. And it gets juicier music fans, especially if you do not live in the Chicagoland area, as not only are the previous aired episodes of JBTV availabe FREE OF CHARGE on i-Tunes, but their website is full of videos of performances, interviews, episodes and more! It's the coolest thing since All Ages Radio aired on Friday nights with Kevin and Gordon!

The most beautiful phrase in the English language is as follows:

Against Me! to perform a live acoustic set

If at any point in your lives you come across these words, your first reaction is to pounce at the opportunity like a Love Smith Bears defense pounces on a football after a forced turnover (NORTH DIVISION CHAMPS!). There is nothing like an Against Me! acoustic set. Heck the band started off as an acoustic band and to this day, there are fans out there that are still mad at the band for switching to electronic guitars for Reinventing Axl Rose. So after trying to convince my friend Gabe that I was the right person to go with, I won out because it turns out Gabe is a loser and has no friends whatsoever!
Good weekend so far: Streetlight Manifesto the night before, Against Me! the following afternoon.
Based on the episode that was aired on November 10, 2010 and based on my fuzzy memory, the set went as follows:
  1. High Pressure Low
  2. I Was a Teenage Anarchist
  3. Pints of Guiness Makes You Strong
  4. Spanish Moss
  5. White Crosses
  6. Sink Florida Sink
Initially, before the band even got on stage, the coolest part of it all was Brendan Kelly from the Lawrence Arms was on stage introducing the band. How cool is that? Turns out, he actually is one of the hosts on JBTV. Tre cool!
If you have never heard any Against Me! songs before in your life, they're easy to get into as sing-alongs are a plentiful. For example, the first time I heard the song "Thrash Unreal" was in April of 2007 before I even knew it would come out in the very mainstream album New Wave, as I made the misguided notion that the song was a track released pre-Axl Rose days. Turned out it was a new song, and even then fans at the show were able to sing along to it because that's just the way the songs are structured. Hell, I used to hate the song "Walking is Still Honest" until i heard it live at my first Against Me! show in DeKalb, IL (the very same one where I first heard "Thrash" and found out that I can sing along to the "whoa, whoa, whoa" parts (Observe). First time I heard "High Pressure Low," I found myself in the same situation as I was, at the very least, able to sing along to the "whoa" part of the chorus. You can't help but to sing-a-long with the band.
"Teenage Anarchist" came up next and even though I never considered myself an anarchist when I was a teenager (or even through my college years), I easily found myself relating to this song. I do remember when I was young and was ready to set the world on fire, but the revolution never came because it was indeed a fucking lie!!!!!!! I almost cried listening to this song. That's the other thing about Against Me!, besides their catchiness, they write some really good songs that people like me can actually relate to. (That's why I still look for bands "who play loud and hard every night").
Despite the new songs being great listens theretofore, great disappointment in the set came when one of the band's staple songs "Pints of Guiness Makes You Strong" was next on the list. Before the show started, we were told by Brendan Kelly I believe, that this was a real concert venue and just because there were cameras around, that we should feel free to liberally do what we normally would do at "real" shows. Unfortunately, we as the audience must've either forgotten that rule, we were tired from the night before, maybe we are nervous when there's cameras around, or maybe we were all critically judging this band as only this band can get judged, but I was gravely disappointed when we all pretended that we didn't know the song that the band was performing on stage. I mean, I sang along, but even then, if I were to really sing, you could have probably heard my voice on one of the many live mics. After the song's performance, a stellar job as always by the way, Tom said something that you will not catch on any of the online episodes (and I paraphrase): "Fuck, even when we decide to play an old song, you guys just stand around like zombies. So we're just gonna keep playing the new songs." I'm sure it was meant to be half-serious, half-facetious, but it's insulting to get called out by one of the most influential people in punk rock today. But Gabel was right.

We move on to "Spanish Moss" and following "Guiness" is a tough task, but following "Guiness" AND being called out by Gabel, I still haven't gotten over it and I really don't enjoy "Moss" when I listen to it because of it. Gabel then introduced the next song "White Crosses" as a personal song based on an event that occurred to him in St. Augustin, Florida and had to do with abortion clinics. The final reason why people get into Against Me! is that the band, and most notably Gabel, wear their hearts, their social and political views, on their sleeves. They finish the set with "Sink, Florida, Sink," another fan favorite, to little fanfare as the band finished the set and left the stage faster than you can ask, "is walking still honest, Tom?"

The crowd, was one of the worst crowds at a show, but with the cameras around, I can see how people were more reserved with their actions, but with a band that is action packed like Against Me! why would we do that to ourselves? Maybe we were just in awe of a band that was not on the decline on the heels of releasing their second major label album, rather at the pinnacle of their careers. Regardless, the moral of the story is that I went out and bought White Crosses a few days after the set (along with The Gasligth Anthem's American Slang. YES, both self-titled tracks from both ablums sound extremely identical). So far, I have been pleasantly surprised on how much I have enjoyed Crosses. As cheesy as it will sound, the album has become the soundtrack to my 2010 summer. Unfortunately, this show is nowhere near a contender for SHOW OF THE YEAR. Hope they had a better crowd opening up for the Silversun Pickups that night.

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