While I think the idea of full-album shows can be a cool one, particularly if its an album the listener has a sentimental connection with, I think that they also invite a lot of space for potential letdown; an album performed as a single unit might work well on its own but can also frequently mess with the flow of a full-length headline set. The double album show, however, can be pretty great; you get the natural ebb and flow and crescendo that comes with the experience of listening to an album, then you get to reset and start the process over again halfway through the show. And when the show contains two albums that were released back-to-back, it also allows a unique, retroactive insight as to what the songwriter or the band was going through at that time period.
To that end, Against Me! brought their two-night, four-album mini-tour through Boston last week for a couple well-attended nights at the 1000-capacity Royale nightclub. Yours truly attended the first night which, if you’re keeping score at home, meant getting Searching For A Former Clarity and New Wave in succession. Released in 2005 and 2007 respectively, these represent the band’s last album on Fat Wreck Chords and subsequent first major label album for Sire Records. They were also written during the second half of the eight-year reign of George W. Bush. The country was constantly at war, conservatism ruled the day, and the country was on the brink of an economic collapse, themes that we’re struggling with on an exponential scale a decade-plus later. On a more personal level, they also found Laura Jane Grace exploring themes of gender and identification and isolation, things that would all get blown open on 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues. The band looked and sounded great on this night; Grace’s voice was probably the best I’ve heard it at any point in the last half-decade. It was the first time I’d seen Andrew Seward perform in Boston since returning to his previous role as the band’s bass player, and as much as I loved watching Inge Johansson play and perform, there’s something comforting about seeing the three-headed monster Grace flanked by Seward and longtime ax-man James Bowman with the eternal sparkplug that is Atom Willard providing the gas pedal. I know I mixed metaphors there, but whatever. The double-album show also gave a chance for the band to pull out a few deep cuts that haven’t been played in a long, long time; Grace remarked that time had taught her it was okay to hate the New Wave track “Stop,” but that time has also taught her it’s okay to get funky when listening to that song if you want to.
Support on this quick run of Against Me! shows came from Omaha’s Cursive and Toronto’s Dilly Dally. The former, a long-running six-piece post-punk collaborative are still touring in support of last year’s Vitriola and it’s 2019 companion Get Fixed. The latter are a band that I was not really previously familiar with unfortunately, but they’re a dynamite force. In short order, they’ve perfected a sort of explosive, post-grunge sound that is somewhere between Bikini Kill and Sonic Youth and maybe Smashing Pumpkins but the good Smashing Pumpkins of like 1994.
Head below to see our full photo rundown. For whatever reason, none of the bands involved were really lit from the front, allowing the viewer a more ethereal experience and the amateur photographer an awful lot of frustration. I just kinda leaned into the poor lighting and hoped for the best, particularly where the oversaturdated red light during Dilly Dally’s set is concerned.