Against Me! at the Phoenix Concert Theatre
When going to a punk show, there's an automatic stereotype associated with it. Inside a scuzzy bar, muscled guys with mohawks drinking beer, lots of crowd surfing and aggressive behaviour, and a band with music that might make you nervous. Punk band Against Me!, however, are a big stretch from that sort of stereotype.
Inside Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre, the Florida based band were more about the music than anything else. The band is touring in support of their latest studio effort Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which came out two years ago. The band did however, play new unreleased material that lead singer Laura Jane Grace said would be on their upcoming album.
Against Me! took the stage and opened the show with I Was a Teenage Anarchist. If the crowd wasn't already in near proximity to the stage, they were doing everything in their power to get that much closer. Rushing towards the front, pushing people aside, anything to be right in the middle of the action.
The band played a fair amount of older and newer material. Favourites including True Trans Soul Rebel, Pints of Guinness Makes You Strong, and Thrash Unreal, which let the crowd be taken over by the music. Arguably, just about any song got the audience hyped.
A few surprise moments happened during the show including an appearance Montreal French singer Béatrice Martin, who goes by the stage name Coeur de pirate, to sing Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart from the 2007 album New Wave. As well a cover of The Clash's Train in Vain was played by the band at the end of the set.
The show was very performance focused. There were hardly any moments where Grace, or anyone from the band stopped to talk or make comments unless it was to introduce a song. It was very 'one song right after the other', which in retrospect was a pretty novel move given that it gave the audience barely a minute to catch their breath before the next song started. Ultimately it kept the adrenaline running.
The audience dynamic at this show was nothing short of spectacular. The vast age group of young teens to 40 year olds just looking for a good punk show, was very present. Although everyone was there to mosh, dance, and scream/sing along, there was no overly aggressive behaviour. No one appeared to be rude to one another, or had any sort of attitude that would disrupt others from having a good time. A very punk move, indeed. Although an occasional camera phone popped up (even a selfie stick was seen), it wasn't as excessive as say, at a larger venue for a more high profile artist. Another perfect example of how Against Me! fans were just there to enjoy some good music.
The best aspect of the Phoenix Concert Theatre was that there was no barricade, leaving room for fans to jump on stage and soar off into a sea of moshers as they crowd surfed away. Everyone who jumped on stage made sure to acknowledge Grace whether it be a thumbs up, a hug, or just to sing in her face with her. Her response, to nearly all of them, is what was very symbolic of the whole night. A massive smile while continuing to play.