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AAA Music | 30 September 2020

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Against Me! @ Kingston Peel

| On 04, Dec 2011

London, 28th November 2011

Speaking as someone who thinks that Punk Rock as something to believe in is the sole refuge of overly opinionated teenagers, their balding dads and *spits* “anarchists”, Against Me! are a truly inspiring entity. At once spirited and intelligent but never hectoring, they’ve managed to pull off an incredible trick of being an intensely political band that one doesn’t have to share the opinions of to fully enjoy the music. Something that even the similarly named, similarly opinionated and far more popular Rise Against haven’t quite been able to do yet. This means that their shows take place in places like this, a 250 capacity bar in one of the suburbs furthest away from civilisation (although strangely enough, Kingston, thanks to the legendary Banquet Records, just happens to have two or three of the best punk venues in England to speak of, but I digress) and God help me, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather see them, in surroundings like this I can’t help but imagine this is the kind of frantic, exciting Rock ‘n’ Roll genius that my Dad saw when he saw The Clash (Twice, the lucky bastard!).

And, in true Punk spirit, it sounds so simple on paper. The four piece take to the stage and hammer out their best songs (basically in a medley, for there is rarely a gap between songs. And when there is it’s between the main set and the encore) as loud as the venue will allow them to go. And yeah, anyone can do that, but two things separate tonight from the legions and legions of other bands who do the same thing and just give you a stress induced headache, first, the sheer, military grade tightness of Against Me! as a live band, through drummer Jay Weinberg’s (Max, of E Street Band fame’s boy) bowel shaking ferocity that sees him snap a stick in half and send the tip halfway across the stage into the face of singer Tom Gabel. During the first song. Guitarist James Bowman howling high harmonies and Bassist Andrew Seward bounding around looking pleased as punch, there’s Tom, thrashing away at his Rickenbacker, showing off his Howitzer of a voice, throwing himself into his songs with an intensity rarely seen in any offshoot of Rock let alone punk.
But the other element, the one you will not get anywhere else, is the songs. The sheer copper-bottomed genius of Tom Gabel’s chords and lyrics pieced together by the rest of the band. There’s brilliant pop in the earth-shaking rendition of their biggest single I Was A Teenage Anarchist and High Pressure Low, both off recent album White Crosses, the title track of which opens the evening, it’s opening snare cracks causing everyone in the room to flinch due to sheer volume. There’s mournful country waltz in Baby, I’m an Anarchist! Fully throated hardcore in closer We Laugh at Danger (And Break All The Rules) and T.S.R, and one of the best songs ever written in the rarely aired Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart, performed with a member of support act Crazy Arm filling in for Tegan Quin. It’s an astonishing night. The kind most punk bands… hell, most bands in general, would kill for, but the most dizzying part is that this is a pretty typical Against Me! gig, this isn’t them on the form of their lives, this is what they’re normally like. In fact, I’ll leave it to my friend Emily to sum up the night. “I feel sorry for the rest of the bands in the world, all a bit shit compared to Against Me…”

Author: Will Howard