Sometimes we forget, but music has the ability to evoke change. Acts like John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Rage Against the Machine and Bob Marley are as famous for their political stances as they were for their songs. And now, Against Me! is wielding the power of punk rock to become the voice of a generation. The Florida group’s June 19 show at Chicago’s Metro felt as much like a celebration of individuality – and a rally against bigotry – as it did a head-banging, body-slamming, fun-filled rock concert.
When Laura Jane Grace and company took the stage at the iconic venue, fans erupted in joyous cheers as the band kicked things off with one of their biggest hits, “I Was a Teenage Anarchist.” Everyone clapped along with the thumping, defiant “White Crosses,” and the entire floor was overtaken by a good old-fashioned mosh pit when Against Me! broke into “Dead Friend,” with bassist Inge Johansson rallying the crowd with his infectious energy and rockabilly-inspired riffs.
Grace – who made history in 2012 when she came out as transgender in Rolling Stone Magazine – kept her stage banter to a minimum, but the show had a truly triumphant feel in the wake of the recent tragedy in Orlando and the continuing fight for LGBTQ rights. Young women lined the front row, rugged punk rockers filled the pit, and folks who spent the day celebrating equality at Chicago’s Pride Fest filled the venue, joining forces to create an unforgettable night of punk positivity.
“It’s nice to have a release,” Grace said describing the energy-packed show before adding that it gives us all a chance to pretend the bullsh*t in the world doesn’t exist. The freeing feeling continued as she fiercely attacked their track “Thrash Unreal.”
It may seem odd to compare Against Me! to Bruce Springsteen, but both artists write politically infused songs that unite the masses in the face of great injustice, poverty, violence and corruption. Songs like “True Trans Soul Rebel,” “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” with Atom Willard’s relentless drumming, and “White People for Peace,” which featured a delicious guitar solo by James Bowman, connected with fans – while shining a spotlight on social injustice – in the same way The Boss did with “Born in the U.S.A.” back in the 1980s. If Grace and company keep up this high level of outspoken artistry, it isn’t hard to imagine Against Me! selling out venues and evoking epic sing-a-longs for decades to come.
Fans were treated to a sneak peak of the group’s new material with the melodic, quasi-love song, “Boyfriend.” Later, Against Me! perfectly paid tribute to The Clash with their take on “Train in Vain,” which they dedicated to all the dads in the crowd who chose to spend their Father’s Day night rocking out at Metro.
Music is a powerful tool, and in the hands of talented musicians like the members of Against Me! it has the ability to start a revolution. Check out photos from the group’s June 19 performance at Metro in Chicago above and head over to their website for a full list of future tour dates.