A couple years ago, Against Me swung through Denver on a tour stop. Not too many people go to a concert for the opening act. But, that’s what myself, my friend Sarah and lots of other people did. Well, to call Against Me an opening act is kind of misleading. You’d think they’d grown out of that. It was more like a double bill. But, I digress. That concert, two years ago this summer was a huge turning point for me. And last month, I was able to build on that success as Against Me returned to Denver to support their latest release, Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
The last time I saw them, Transgender Dysphoria Blues was still a work in progress. Laura Jane Grace was producing it herself. And before it’s release, they had experienced the loss of their drummer and bass player. So, what really was showing up in town was almost a new band. Gone was Jay Weinberg. And in his place was the excellent drummer, Atom Willard who has played with bands such as The Offspring, Angels & Airwaves and my favorite Social Distortion. And once long time bassist Andrew Seward left to work on his new solo project, he was replaced by the incredibly talented Swede Inge Johansson who has played with the The Noise Conspiracy. Put everything together, it promised to be a great show.
But, first I had to get there. I’ve been a little cash strapped lately. So, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it. I had been looking around my room looking for something I could sell on CraigsList. My friend Sarah and I had talked about going months ago. But, I think we had let March sneak up on us. I was a little taken aback by a friend’s question that showed up on the Twitter on the Monday before the show. My incredibly nice friend Becky asked if I was going. When I said I wasn’t sure if I could financially make it, she asked if I would be willing to go alone if she bought me a ticket. Now, here is where it gets interesting. In my response, I included Against Me lead singer Laura Jane Grace and said something to the effect “That would be fantastic. Unless @LauraJaneGrace would get me a ticket.” I was totally joking and really didn’t expect to hear from her. Shortly after I responded to Becky, Laura responded with “Sure. I’ll put you on the guest list +1.” O.O WHAT THE FUCK?!? DID THAT JUST HAPPEN? Becky had already purchased my ticket by now. And here I was with three tickets to the show!
So, what to do? What to do? I wasn’t about to turn down two free tickets from the band. And I asked Becky if she wanted to use it or get a refund. But, she never responded to me. So, I decided the best thing to do would be to give the free tickets to a couple of trans people. This was an epic record they had just released about what it’s like to be transgender. Laura had quickly become a rare shining example of what it’s like to be transgender. Up until very recently, there had been so few positive trans role models around. So, it was settled. I decided to ask around at group to see if anyone was interested in them. But, then I remembered my friend Lacie who had mentioned that she wanted to know more about the band. I knew she’d be interested in the music. So, I gave one to her and she brought along our mutual friend Breanna. And once Sarah got back with me and purchased her ticket, it was settled.
The day of the show, Laura played a couple songs live on the radio. I heard from a friend who is a DJ there that if he had known about it, he would have gotten me in to watch her play. Oh well. That was a nice gesture. But, at least I would be at the show.
As we approached evening, I started thinking about what I would wear. And Lacie came over to help me with a little makeup. I don’t have any of my own. And I need some serious lessons. We thought we were running late. But, it turned out the show started later than the ticket told us. We saved on parking by taking the bus downtown and walking to the Summit Music Hall. A venue I had never visited before. We met up with Sarah and Breanna who were already out front. And then came the nerve wracking part. Speaking of nerve wracking, let me rewind a little bit.
Clothing. I’ve always been absolutely terrified to leave the house in feminine clothing. I’ve had nothing but bad experiences. But, having Lacie with me on the trip there. And knowing there would be so many trans people there, I would just blend in. More or less. So, I felt fairly confident in wearing a top with a somewhat low cut. I knew it was a punk show and that I would probably be sweating a couple of songs in. So, I kept it short sleeved. But, wore long pants. I took a light wool (is that an oxymoron) sweater for afterward and tied it around my waist.
Okay. Let’s fast forward again back to arriving at the show. We all found each other. And I needed to go to the box office to collect my free tickets. The lady asked for my ID, but couldn’t find it under my male name. So, she asked if it could possibly be for Rebecca since there were two tickets reserved under the same last name. I sheepishly said yes. And we were in! Lacie and Breanna split from Sarah and I and we heard later they had watched the show from an upstairs area that lines the stage. Sarah and I stayed downstairs and slowly made our way forward as the opening bands played. We ended up on the right side of the stage, about second row if there were seats. This is a punk show after all. 😛
The opening acts were great. Especially the second one. I keep meaning to go back and see who they were to see if they have an album out. By the time Against Me came to the stage, the crowd was worked up to what I expected a true Against Me concert to be. There was a mosh pit, there was lots of pushing and of course there was crowd surfing. I don’t remember the exact set list. But, they started out with mostly songs from the new album. And then slowly began interjecting old hits from their back catalog. I sometimes kick myself for not being able to overcome my anxiety enough when I was younger to go to shows like this. I guess I’m making up for it now. Speaking of age. As Lacie and I were walking up to the box office, she said “There’s gonna be people with weird haircuts and wearing weird clothes in here. So, be prepared.” I just looked at her said “Fantastic!” Other than that, I don’t think my ripe old age was much of an issue. We just went in and had a great time.
Here are some highlights:
*Dude wearing Joy Division shirt who was determined not to have a good time.
*Girl crying behind me because her boyfriend broke up with her at the concert. Before the show was over, she was hitting on a drunk guy who had earlier been trying to cheer her up.
*Drunk guy pushing and mistaking my short haired friend Sarah for a guy and slamming into her entirely too hard. She literally had to get in his face and tell him she was not his “bro”.
*Trying to reach over to the front railing to make sure I didn’t move to far away from Sarah. In the end, we were holding onto each other.
*Finally had to stand in line to use the women’s restroom. Nobody said anything. And I don’t think they gave me a second look.
*Laura Jane Grace stopped mid song to berate one member of the security for pushing fans.
*Watching people elude security and get up on stage. One guy made it up there via the side stage. Another got up and gave Laura a kiss. Drunk guy mentioned above tried to pull himself up onto the stage after crowd surfing. It was hysterically comical because he must weigh about 250 lbs and he had entirely too many beers to accomplish such a complex task.
*Laura Jane Grace wore a white shirt with a drawing or picture of bare breasts on it.
*The older punks who were standing on the edge of the mosh pit throwing the younger kids back in.
*The jackhole security guy who was very keen on finding something wrong in the middle of that mosh pit.
*Being doused with water toward the end by a nice security guard.
*There were lots of people I thought could be trans. It was so great seeing them out and proud. I saw a couple friends who I don’t see very often. It was great seeing Stevie. This album really speaks to so many of us in a very close heartfelt way. I’m glad it’s being taken seriously by the media. And I’m glad so many trans people are discovering Against Me.
*The religious people who were standing on a nearby corner telling everyone god loves them. Gee thanks.
In the end, I barely walked away. I was incredibly thirsty. My muscles hurt from pushing and being pushed. Sarah had some bruises on her feet. And I had a couple on my back. I’m much larger than her. So, I tried to shield her from most of it. Although I felt like was about to pass out, we did hang out in front on the sidewalk and track down Lacie and Breanna. But, from there, Sarah and I walked a couple blocks to a 7/11 for their biggest bottle of water. I sat on the curb recuperating. It was hard to talk for a little while. I think I slept for 15 hours once I was home.
I really thought the show a couple years ago was great. But, this one really was amazing. It’s clear that Laura is much more comfortable on stage now. And the rest of the band seemed to work very well together. I was very excited to see Atom Willard. I’ve always had a thing for drummers. And I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t know what this says about me at my age. But, I don’t care. This was the best concert experience I’ve ever had in my entire life. It was incredible. I can’t wait for them to come back.