Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The members of Against Me! were never supposed to be in Rock Island, Illinois, on the day that they were in Rock Island, Illinois earlier in this month of May. Even when they were supposed to be here, they almost weren't going to be here. With a session and show set up months earlier, a leak of the band's forthcoming album, "White Crosses," almost caused a complete shift in touring and scheduling plans. But alas, the original story of how they never would have been here, will have to suffice, as it holds. It just so happened that their booking agent is a native of the Quad-Cities, an old acquaintance from Geneseo, Ill., just down Interstate 80 and a fello alumni of the University of Iowa, where he booked bands with guys like me in them, to open for national acts like The Dismemberment Plan, even if they didn't deserve to. But Against Me! was here and a coup was pulled off in getting them to stick around and play the 400 capacity room we throw shows in on a regular basis. The venue erected a barricade in front of the stage for the first time, bolting it into the floor and it remains there still. They were expecting some angst and they got it. We all got it. Don't believe it at all that the Gainesville, Florida group has softened around the edges. Lead singer Laura Jane Grace may be older and wiser (read: worn out on attacking the white pillars and sacred cows with a vengeance like she used to), but she still pisses on everything and it's as electric as it's ever been. She's mentioned in interviews recently that it's difficult to keep the ire at the same level it's been at for years - being red-hot angry at a government that you don't feel speaks to or for you - when you recognize that the wars and conflicts that you'd be speaking out against are the same wars and conflicts that you've already been steaming over and spewing about for the last three albums and it's easy to understand why one would be discouraged out of some of that temper and all that stomping discourse. She sings on new song, "Ache With Me," "Do you experience the same sense of defeat?" and it's almost certainly one of the lines on the album that jumps out at you as if it were three-dimensional. It might be Grace, exactly, as she feels every day when she catches the evening news or reads a newspaper, needing to turn the picture off or throw what's in her hands down in disgust, as if the ink itself that formed the words and pictures was made of actual shit, so repulsive just to be around. Grace, Andrew Seward, James Bowman and new drummer George Rebelo, have forged on with a new record that's still chock-full of turmoil and all of those thoughts that disrupt a mind and spirit, only now, there is a bit more of the defeat bubbling into the waters. The band chose two very poignant songs to cover on this session, one by the Dead Kennedys, that could eerily have been about the catastrophic British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and month-long gusher of a fuck-up, with lyrics that touch on the waves and the water being "clogged with oil." The other is a song from Cock Sparrer entitled, "Because You're Young," that speaks to the way Grace was and likely will always feel a bit. "Because you're young, you're torn between/A world of hate and a world of dreams/So much to lose, so much to gain/So much to fight for, so much to change/You don't look back, you don't look down/You're gonna turn everything around/You live your life like a loaded gun/Because you're young/Stop talking back, get off the phone/You're late again, you missed/The last bus home/This ain't the way you want to live/I know something's got to give/You're always sure, you're always right/You see it all in black and white/You never listen to anyone/Because you're young." She's not necessarily young anymore and that's got to be dealt with. She's not young, but She's not old either. She's just learning that time and change are slower to come than a young person would ever believe them to be. And that's what will beat you down some. That's what will sadly make an anarchist pause.