Against Me! at Aragon Ballroom

Against Me! is one of those bands I will see every time they roll through Chicago because the shows are always memorable. I’ve seen them at more than one huge outdoor festival. I’ve seen them at intimate venues and sprawling ballrooms. I’ve seen them headline, support and everything in between. I’ve seen them with a bunch of lineups and two different, but similar lead singers. I’m not trying to prove fanboy status (which is probably true), I’m establishing a history for what I’m about to say. This show, supporting Gaslight Anthem at Aragon Ballroom, was absolutely the best Against Me! show I’ve ever seen.

Lots of things changed in the world of Against Me! in the year(s) prior to this show, particularly with Laura Jane Grace, which made everyone in the band play like they seriously had something to prove. The entire band was playing Against Me! songs, but they were all just a little bit different. Underscoring the crowd singing along to every word of every song was a constant fervor coming from the stage that just didn’t let up. Constant screaming, frenetic guitar playing and profuse sweating punctuated every track they strung together like one giant set because there were no breaks between.

The floor was shaking. Beers were spilling. People were so busy enjoying themselves that no one was recording it. Laura Jane Grace sounded like she lost her voice at one point. “Punk rock” as a description for anything has been almost completely bastardized over the years, but there’s really no better way to describe what I witnessed during the Against Me! set at the Aragon.

Epilogue: Most people have already expressed their support, or at least accepted, the Laura Jane Grace transition, but there were whispers from random people in the crowd expressing shock, concern or even disdain at the idea of Against Me! being fronted by a woman. First, if you can’t support someone for who they are because of how it affects your music, go fuck yourself. More importantly, if they play every show like they played this one, Against Me! is a better band with Laura Jane Grace front and center.

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