Thursday, September 6
As curious as show goers might have been about the transformation of Against Me! 's singer>"/>
Thursday, September 6 El Corazon
Thursday, September 6
As curious as show goers might have been about the transformation of Against Me!'s singer and primary songwriter, Laura Grace, who announced in May that she would no longer live life as Tom Gabel, the band's show Thursday night was not populated with lookie lous or hecklers. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The sold out crowd was enthusiastically supportive of Grace and the band, a vibe which dominated a packed and steamy El Corazon evening.
Through steady touring and a series of great records, the Florida quartet has become one of the finest punk acts of their generation, mixing thoughtful political lyrics with anthemic choruses that retain their rock edge without ever dovetailing into pop territory. Addressing the elephant in the room right from the get-go, the band opened their set with "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," a new song about Grace's lifelong gender struggles. "?Your tells are so obvious," she sings on the song's opening verse. "Shoulders too broad for a girl / Keeps you reminded / Helps you remember where you come from." And there were a few others too, like "True Trans Soul Rebel" and "Drinking with the Jocks," all from a forthcoming concept record about a transgender prostitute that the band began recording in February.
The band seemed to know they were playing to a group of loyalists, with El Corazon being a smaller venue for the band and an out-of-cycle tour date. As such, the setlist was populated with mostly older material, playing only two songs from their latest LP, 2010's White Crosses, a Butch Vig-produced album that many fans thought was too commercial. The band plowed through their entire set nearly non-stop as well, and it had to have been half a dozen songs or so before Grace even said hello. And that was nearly the extent of her chatter. There were a few, "This song is called..." along with a few "thank yous," but beyond that it was all business. Drummer Jay Weinberg was particularly amped up last night, sitting high atop his drum throne and bashing away with reckless abandon through the set's two dozen or so songs, standing up and playing frequently and keeping the band's energy up in the stratosphere.
The other notable thing about Thursday's show was the humidity level inside the club. Sold out El Corazon shows are notoriously hot and steamy to begin with, but add in a constantly swirling pit and last night's gig seemed to approach record-breaking humidity levels. While a little bit of sweat may add to the ambience of a punk show, it was uncomfortably hot in the show room and the topic dominated audience conversation. It was like watching a band in a Bikram yoga studio, or perhaps like enjoying a show set in a sauna, only with the smell of cedar replaced by Pabst Blue Ribbon. The club's solution to the problem was to arm the security staff with a super-sized Super Soaker and blast the audience with water rather than say, cold air (or even any air at all, as the handful of fans anchored to the club's ceiling weren't turned on either). It's unclear whether the humidity problems in the venue stem from some kind of structural challenges or whether the club simply won't pony up for a solution, but staying in the venue for the band's entire set felt like some kind "Survivor" endurance challenge set in a sweat lodge.
By the end of the show, the crowd was thoroughly soaked, both by the security's steady stream of water and their own perspiration. And though most of the crowd stayed and sang along until the very end, attendees made a quick beeline for the exit as the band's final chords rang out, eager to cool their bodies from an evening of steamy punk rock.