Inside Against Me!'s "Transgender Dysphoria Blues"

Laura Jane Grace is the kind of frontwoman who locks eyes with stagedivers as they leave her realm and collapse into a sea of outstretched hands. She beams, either clutching at the mic stand before her or barreling down on the neck of her guitar, anchored by both as kids backflip and vault themselves off the lip of the stage and into the crowd. More people in the room are singing along than not; most bodies are represented by a raised fist or two, depending on the professed dedication of those present and their familiarity with the new stuff. It takes about a song and a half for the swirling vortex of a clumsy pit to devour the congregation, and throughout it all, the bright lights and busy atmosphere don't obscure Laura's vision. This is familiar territory. These fans are familiar faces. These choruses go over just as well in Brooklyn as they do in New Haven, Boston, DC and Philly. This is an Against Me! headlining tour, just like any other.

... Except it's not, exactly.

See also: Live: Against Me! Go For Broke At Music Hall Of Williamsburg

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Live: Against Me! Buck The Norms, Duet With Joan Jett At Terminal 5

Joe Papeo via The House List
Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!
Against Me! w/The Cult, The Icarus Line
Terminal 5
Friday, June 8

Better than: Being stuck in pre-tunnel traffic on a Megabus that was supposed to have left Philly at 3:30? (R.I.P. Chinatown buses.) Sorry, sorry. Better than... um, any other rawk band working right now?

The critical indifference toward and commercial failure of Against Me!'s 2010 album White Crosses was straight-up cognitive dissonance to say the least, happening as it did while fellow punks-turned-Springsteenians the Gaslight Anthem and the Hold Steady ate up plaudits and increasingly huge audiences all around. If it took lead singer Tommy Gabel's brave and inspiring decision to become a woman, Laura Jane Grace, for this band to receive the Green Day-level notice they deserve, then so be it.

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Butch Vig On Nevermind, Siamese Dream, Garbage, And His History Of Shaping Alternative Rock As We Know It

If you don't think Butch Vig's almost singlehandedly invented two decades of alternative rock as we know it, just look at his resumé: Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Green Day, Jimmy Eat World, Foo Fighters, AFI. That's without mentioning his membership in the still-cool Garbage or the fact he produced a little generational totem called Nevermind. From grunge to "electronica" to emo, he's probably building someone's entire adolescence from scratch as we speak. He free-associated for Village Voice about some of his biggest hits, underrated discoveries and Garbage's own new album Not Your Kind of People, which drops this week.

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Live: Against Me! Go For Broke At Music Hall Of Williamsburg

Against Me! w/Screaming Females
Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sunday, June 5

Better than: A lecture on the evils of "selling out" delivered by a second-semester college freshman.

Against Me! played the first seven songs of their blistering set at the Music Hall of Williamsburg Sunday night one right after another, without stopping. Then, the crowd going sufficiently gonzo and the band's black t-shirts sufficiently soaked, they took a sensible, 30- or 45-second break and then roared through 10 more at exact the same rate of urgency and velocity, letting the end of one song collide right into the beginning of the next like some lunatic game of punk-rock bumper cars. It went that way all night: no ballads, no sermons, just speed, volume and the kind of six-billion-watt choruses that sound best when shouted by a roomful of people. Frontman Tom Gabel didn't even address the audience directly until nearly halfway through the set, and then only to set up "White Crosses" as "a pro-choice song." He mostly just beamed and hollered and sawed frantically downward on his guitar again and again.

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Q&A: Against Me!'s Tom Gabel on Anarchists, Anti-Abortion Billboards, Alternative Press Magazine

Tom is the one in black.

Against Me! leader Tom Gabel is the sort of lyricist that can't stop himself from contemplating the folly of Robert McNamara's foreign policy decisions mid-song, and he's the sort of singer that can find a way to make the former Secretary of Defense's quirky name positively swing. Whether attacking the industrial military complex, morally bankrupt youth culture, or Florida's very existence, Gabel shoves his songs to the brim with words, pushing heady statements into soaring battle cries through sheer force of will. On the Gainesville punks' new album White Crosses (their second collaboration with megaproducer Butch Vig and Sire Records), he ups the lyrical density and widescreen melodies even further, attacking religious hegemony and left-wing hypocrisy with tunes that, Dan Weiss wrote in the print Voice, will coax out "your chorus-singing impulses." But White Crosses has plenty of the group's signature fist-pumping anthems, but they also find time for epic ballads worthy of Springsteen ("Because Of The Shame") and acoustic laments worthy of Westerberg ("Ache With Me").

The Me! men have been through a bit of change recently, with founding drummer Warren Oakes leaving to run a Mexican eatery (he was replaced by former Hot Water Music drummer George Rebelo) and the hyper-active, hyper-mustachioed Franz Nicolay helping them out with keyboards. But the shout-along live shows and all-black wardrobe have remained intact, as has Gabel's down to earth sense of humor. We recently called up Gabel to find out what he's against these days, what it's like to almost pass out on stage and why we shouldn't diminish the importance of bassist Andrew Seward's beard.

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Things We Forgot to Tell You in 2007 #2: Against Me at Terminal 5

Against Me!
Saturday, November 17
Terminal 5
photos by Rebecca Smeyne

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