LIVE: Against Me! / Milk Teeth / Mobina Galore @ Manchester Academy, Manchester

By Matthew Wilson

As she stands before the vocal diehards at the front of the stage, grinning with a mile-wide smile on her face, Laura Jane Grace is in her element. “You know, my favourite thing about touring the UK right now is that I can say with 100% certainty that no one in this room voted for Donald Trump.” The audience explodes in approval as the Grace launches into a solo rendition of ‘Baby, I’m An Anarchist’. It’s been a busy year. Releasing ‘Shape Shift With Me’ in September alongside Grace’s autobiography ‘Tranny’ in November, Against Me! aren’t gonna roll over and die anytime soon.

Canadian punks Mobina Galore take to the stage first, their Bikini Kill influenced rock making a much louder racket than would be expected from a two piece. As power chords and heavy drumming build the bedrock of their sound, it’s Jenna Priestner’s incredible voice that is their ace in the hole. Bringing to mind Brody Dalle’s gravelly full-throated singing, Priestner commands attention from the audience. Blasting through their set, I’m left wanting to hear more from them.

Milk Teeth are up next, and like the headliners, they’ve also had a busy year. Since releasing their ‘Vile Child’ debut this year, they’ve been touring relentlessly in support ever since. The year might be catching up with them – some of the vocal harmonies have a bit of roadside wear and tear on them – but Milk Teeth power through.Their relentless heavy grunge-punk flooring the audience. The band are as psyched as the crowd to be here, with  Becky Blomfield telling the crowd that, “touring with Against Me! feels like an early Christmas present.” It’s not just ruthless fuzz assault, as slow jam ‘Swear Jar’ is the highlight of the band’s set.  

Regardless of the openers, all eyes are on Against Me! tonight. Launching into ‘True Trans Soul Rebel,’ having the crowd at the front hanging on every word she spits, Grace and her cohorts play a set that is front-loaded with cuts from their last two albums. Material from ‘Shape Shift With Me’, especially the singles ‘333’ and ‘Crash’, go down well with the crowd. Well, most of the crowd.

Some audience members are unppeciative of the band playing newer material. The accusation of ‘sellouts’ have followed Against Me across their entire career. It’s getting old. An early appearance of ‘Miami’ briefly shuts them up any detractors, but soon they’re back to slinging abuse at the band onstage. It’s a blemish on the evening. Thankfully the riff for ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’ rings out, and a gang of teenagers jostle them out of the way, fists in the air and spitting every word back at Grace. It’s testament to the band’s thick skin.

The strength of Against Me! is in their ability to constantly evolve and diversify their sounds, and the second half of the set is drawn equally from their catalogue. The one-two punch of ‘T.S.R’ and ‘Cliche Guevara’ from hits hard, and deep-cut ‘Tonight We’re Only Gonna Give 35%’ makes an appearance. Before the band launches into ‘Bamboo Bones’, Grace takes a moment to talk about how she visited a church before the show. “I don’t believe in God,” she says, “but coming here is my church. I hope we can create spaces where everyone is safe.”

Largely, Against Me! have succeeded in this. Through their decisions as a band, through Grace’s fearlessness in living her life the way she wants, and regardless of the controversy or media buzz around themselves, they have managed to create a platform that brings all these different strands of the punk community together. Although the world outside may seem ugly, Against Me! stand tall in the face of their critics and detractors. There may be a lot of division in the world right now, but the ties that bind us together are stronger than the forces that drive us apart. And Against Me! are doing their part in keeping the ship from sinking.