Anytime a band takes the stage, it’s apparent if they’re doing it for a paycheck or passion—it can be mimicked sometimes, but when there’s an honest attempt to convey their art, you can feel it. I’ve seen Against Me! a few times before and they always have been strong, but on Wednesday night at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers stopped by with exploding passion that was apparent for every note of their 90 minute set.
They performed on a stripped down stage of intimate lighting, accented by the lo-fi twinkle of white Christmas lights strewn about. The setting matched their instrumentation with lead lady Laura Jane Grace strumming acoustic guitar, Marc Hudson on bass, and Against Me! drummer Atom Willard keeping tones warm through pillowed sticks. I suppose this sincere evening is to be expected when the 8 stop tour flyer reads, “An evening of existential dread, fiending, and gender dysphoria in the brilliance of life’s headlights.”
Grace announced in 2012 she was a transgender woman, and would be leaving her birth name behind to focus on life as woman. In years past, she battled being her true self, but this tour is all about catharsis. She shared tour journal entries on stage that are to be released in a forthcoming book, referring to it as, “Like Henry Rollin’s Get in the Van, but more trans.” Through stories on the road as squatter punks seeing the world and hearing major label execs refer to their music as “Rocket fuel in a moped,” Grace expressed how she had been labeled sell-out through the trajectory. In one poignant story, she mentioned seeing three beautiful women with band mates while in Europe that turned out to be men. Her cohorts mocked and made fun of the trans trio while she said nothing. Her response on this evening was, “I’ve been called a sell-out a lot in my career, but [not speaking up that day] … that’s what it feels like to be a sell-out.”
The evening covered many truths, but didn’t skip over light-hearted fun. At one point in the set, a fan yelled out at one point, “Turn it up a notch,” to which Grace replied, buy me a shot! Something with gold for a big ‘fuck you’ to third world countries.” After the laughter settled the fan yelled out, “Goldschlager” to a quick response from Grace, “No! I don’t want a shot of Goldschlager! I’m trans, not 14!” She laughed and dove into the next song.
A band is always strongest when authentic. With Laura Jane Grace letting go of her social fears and reading these stories, the endorphins were flowing. The sold-out venue heard a collection surveying the Against Me! catalog along with a cover of the Replacements’ “Androgynous” and opener David Dondero’s “Twenty Years.” To every fan, except maybe the “turn it up a notch” guy (who bought Grace a shot of Jameson after all), it was clear that the transcendent show was one of pure passion.