I have been a fan of Against Me! for quite a few years now. Even though I have seen them in concert twice before I could not pass up the opportunity to see them at a local place in Sacramento, Ace of Spades, on Labor day. Against Me! are known for their political and socially noteworthy lyrics, energetic performances and for the raspy and distinct voice of their lead singer. Earlier in May this year Against Me! singer Tom Gabel came out as transgender in an issue of Rolling Stones and discussed her plans to transition, while taking the name Laura Jean Grace. Laura’s decision was met with both support and criticism as some very opinionated people weighed in on the news. Laura’s openness and tell-all attitude about the process of transitioning and about her relationships is brave and commendable, but at the same time, if being transgender was more accepted, the news probably would not have spurred so much feedback or caused such a sensation. As a celebrity, Laura is nonetheless in the public eye, and public attention is warranted, but it is interesting to read just how involved the public becomes in another person’s private life, especially when it comes to the concepts of gender, sex and sexual orientation; notions that create massive attention, and depending on whom you ask, are either very fluid, or very firm. Gender, sex, and sexual orientation are all characteristics that shape our daily lives, and that we all have intimate knowledge about as humans. Perhaps this is why we are so interested in putting in our two cents on these subjects, in comparison to lets say an intense discussion about rocket science, since many of us only have limited knowledge about such a topic.
As intense discussions have flourished, what has been focused on less since May is the music. A few stories have discussed the next album titled Transgender Dysphoria Blues, what the album is about, and when it is to be released. I have however read quite a few comments where fans are worried that Laura’s voice or the band’s style of music will change, or that the band will break up. These comments can perhaps be described as personal concerns or gender policing about what gender, transitioning and hormones will “do” to their favorite band. Or, they can be described as general concerns about the sound of a band the fans love and want more music from? I am not sure. But I see no need to worry. The sound of Against Me! is distinct, and Laura’s voice is strong, expressive and raspy and like always, they kicked ass while the audience sang and danced along to songs such as Trash Unreal, Sink Florida Sink and Don’t Lose Touch. My only concern is that I wished they could have played some more of my favorite songs, such as Reinventing Axl Rose, Those Anarcho Punks are Mysterious, or Animal. At the same time, they played for about an hour and a half (longer than any other of the previous Against Me! concerts I have been to), and my ears are still ringing, two days later (I know, that is not good).
Perhaps Against Me! are the same on stage because even though Laura was assigned male at birth, she has always been Laura, even though it is not until now she found the courage to express herself the way she truly wants to, both on and off stage.
The picture was taken by Hennie during the Against Me! concert.