Punk band visits Winnipeg on non-stop 41-show tour

Review: Against Me! @ The Garrick

Punk band “Against Me!” on stage at The Garrick. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

I know very little about Punk. I think this may have been my second Punk show ever. Why did I go? Because I imagine it must take an extraordinary amount of guts to come out as transgender; and even more guts to come out as transgender after you’ve publicly established yourself as a male who fronts a Punk band.

In other words, people are fascinating. One ticket, please.

Ontario’s The Dirty Nil opened the first show of Against Me’s almost non-stop 41 show tour. They were labelled as a Rock/Punk band, but I heard more Punk than anything.

“Dirty Nil”, one of three bands on the bill, opened the show. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

As the trio played “Cinnamon”, I thought about Punk in general. While I don’t own any Punk albums and a lot of it sounds very similar to me, I find it refreshing to listen to music that’s not robotic. The tempo isn’t always even, sometimes it’s off key, but it’s real music played by real people; no auto tune and no click tracks. While it’s not my favourite genre of music, I respect that.

By the third song, people started pushing each other near the front of the stage and the band dedicated “Friends In The Sky” to “…the guy with the big hair.” They were referring to the man at the front of the stage that had a large, three tier mohawk. Each spike looked to be about a foot and a half long. Impressive.

“Dirty Nil” got the crowd fired up. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

During this song, all the pushy people had their arms around each other’s shoulders and they were swaying back and forth.

The band worked hard and when vocalist/guitarist, Luke Bentham wasn’t singing, he was blowing bubbles with his gum.

Near the end of their set, Luke covered all the bases (name of band, come see them at the merch table, thanks for coming out early, etc.) and then blew one last bubble. Sweat flew off his hair into the audience and I had goose bumps on my legs. I truly enjoy watching people play music they love.

I’m partial to women who play Rock; I find them fascinating. Bleached are a female band (plus male drummer – Nick Pillot) from L.A. I didn’t really write notes about their set. I think I was a bit hypnotized and forgot I was there to write a review. Hah!

It took a few songs for the crowd to warm up, but then singer/guitarist, Jennifer Clavin started dancing and suddenly head banging hair was flying all over the stage.

L.A.-based band “Bleached” delivered a compelling performance. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

They played a little bit of Punk and a lot of Hard Rock. I wouldn’t say I was partial to Jennifer’s voice, but I was definitely partial to her performance. Nick was also fun to watch.

The last two songs of their set were quite light and sounded like they could have been on a Rock radio station. I thought it was an odd choice to bring down the show like that, especially at the end, but Bleached had a surprise up their sleeve.

Crowd at The Garrick really enjoyed “Bleached”. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

Jennifer traded her guitar with Nick, grabbed a pair of drum sticks and knocked all our socks off on the kit. She played hard and fast and her hair flew wildly around her. Plenty of cell phones came out to record this moment, except mine. I just sat there with a stupid grin on my face. That was cool.

Against Me! took the stage and while they played “True Trans Soul Rebel”, the large black curtain behind them fell, to reveal their black and white lip logo.

“Against Me!” on stage at The Garrick. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

“I Was A Teenage Anarchist” was next, which was the only song I recognized. The crowd stage dived and surfed and I tried to write down the lyrics for the next few songs, but I couldn’t hear them well, so I gave up.

Apparently the fifth tune was a good one, because a guy who was sitting in the audience ran down to the stage and started slamming himself around which is universal Punk language for “I love this song”.

Also during that song, another guy stage dived and as the crowd was holding him, he sang the lyrics of the song back to vocalist/guitarist, Laura Jane Grace and she high-fived him.

The evening was full of stage divers and crowd surfers. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

The crowd was loud and incredibly entertaining. There were times when I wasn’t listening to the music because there were so many other things going on.

Despite this “chaos”, once the audience member got on stage, they seemed to be pretty respectful. One audience member knocked Laura’s guitar cord out of her guitar and he picked it up and tried to help her put it back in, but the stage hand ran on stage and finished the job.

“Against Me!” delivered a high-energy performance that the audience loved. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

There were a few things that surprised me about this show:

The amount of women stage diving and crowd surfing. At times, there were more women doing it than men. Back in my Grunge days, I barely remember women doing that. Times have changed… Every time someone came close to Laura’s mic stand though, she offered them a hand on stage. She pulled at least three women up on stage.

The drummer, Atom Willard. He must be in wicked shape, because he never slowed down and rarely stopped. Is he really going to exert that much energy for all 41 shows? That’s insane.

That no one was impaled on that guys mohawk. Although near the end, he only had one spike remaining, like a Punk version of Alfalfa.

Security stepped in near the end of the show as it was getting kind of crazy. One guy was doing flips off the stage into the crowd and the next time he surfed onto the stage, security took him off.

A young woman climbed up on stage right after him and security proceeded to guide her off too, but the stage hand caught them and guided her back on stage so she could jump off into the crowd. She was a bit timid, but she did it and everyone cheered.

On their 41-show tour, “Against Me!” engineered a hugely entertaining performance in Winnipeg. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

The encore consisted of an acoustic guitar cover of “Androgynous” by The Replacements and a bunch of other songs that whipped the crowd back into a frenzy. Men and women jumped on stage, hugged each other, jumped, danced, sang at the top of their lungs, held hands, and jumped back into the audience together. It was quite the experience.

The band left the stage to thunderous applause.

That was a lot of fun. Musically, this genre is still not for me, but I love concerts and I especially love watching people who are having an amazing time. There was plenty of that.

I feel like I should say something about Laura being a transgender front woman of a Punk band, I mean that’s why I went. But I don’t really have anything to say about it. She obviously has a lot of experience with this genre, she has a great voice for it and she’s really good at what she does. That’s it!

Good night!

TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here: www.facebook.com/TicketMOMs

Anne Martin


TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here:

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