The only to place to be on Thursday, September 14, 2017 in Hollywood was at the sold out Against Me! show at The Fonda Theatre. Against Me! is one of the few bands that I have seen over five times and you can always count on them putting on one hell of show with a set list that is representative of all of their full-lengths.
But first, let’s talk about the other two bands that went on before them.
Canadian trio The Dirty Nil went on first. I had seen them once before at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach over a year ago with their original bassist so I was particularly interested to see how they would do with their new bassist Ross Miller.
To put it bluntly — they melted faces. The Nil was everything an opening band on such a big tour should be (honestly, they themselves should be headlining tours…they’re that good). They were incredibly energetic and warmed up the crowd. Lead guitarist and vocalist, Luke Bentham — wearing a blue shirt adorned with white stars and marijuana leaves — would do these high kicks while playing his guitar. He blew giant pink bubbles with his gum when he wasn’t singing and he would hold his guitar up high and let chords ring. Bassist Ross Miller flailed and jumped around as well.
One of the more unique aspects of The Dirty Nil is Luke’s voice. It is a mixture of raspy and sharp yelling with a ton of melody in it as well. Luke’s vocalization is something that you don’t typically think can be replicated live, but amazingly he manages to do it. The band started out with the song “Zombie Eyed” and played other songs from their first full-length Higher Power including “Friends In The Sky,” “Know Your Rodent” and the hard-hitting “No Weakness.” They also played songs from their 2017 compilation Minimum R&B such as “Fuckin’ Up Young” and “Cinnamon.”
What also made this show significant for the Nil in particular was that the performance was the same day that Husker Dü drummer, co-vocalist and co-writer Grant Hart passed away. Seeing how The Dirty Nil were influenced by Husker Dü, they dedicated their performance of “Wrestle Yü To Husker Dü” to Grant.
Following The Dirty Nil was LA’s own Bleached. In all honesty, I was not familiar with the band until this show. When they started decorating the stage with a bunch of flowers I thought to myself, “Who was the genius tour organizer that let the hippie band on to the bill?” Now as soon as they began their set, I realized that my original notion of them was totally wrong. Bleached’s sound was an amalgamation of indie rock, pop punk and even a hint of grunge. They performed songs such as “Think Of You,” “Keep On Keepin’ On” and even a new track called “Can You Deal?”
While The Dirty Nil were very vibrant, Bleached played it a bit cooler — that is until their last song. During the very long, instrumental outro, their lead vocalist and guitarist switched instruments with their drummer while their bassist stepped onto the barricade and gently fell onto the crowd and kept playing her bass while crowd surfing. It was a very cool way to end the set to say the least.
I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure this was my eighth Against Me! show, so I thought I knew what I was in for. But once again, I was proven wrong; I really didn’t see what was coming this time. Seeing as they were the headliners, the band obviously had much more freedom with their set list compared to the time I had seen them open for The Cult and Bad Religion respectively and play festivals like FYF Fest 2014 and Ye Scallywag! 2015.
Sure, they played songs from their latest album Shape Shift With Me like “ProVison L-3,” “333” and “Haunting Haunted Haunts” as well as staples such as “Black Me Out,” “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” and “True Trans Soul Rebel” from 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues. The band also performed “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” and “Bamboo Bones” from their 2010 album White Crosses.
But, what was so remarkable was how much of their older material they played as well. Against Me! played “Thrash Unreal,” “New Wave” and “The Ocean” from their major label debut New Wave and they performed “Miami” (to honor the victims of Hurricane Irma) and “From Her Lips To God’s Ears (The Energizer)” from 2005’s Searching For Former Clarity. During the slow intro to “TSR” (off 2003’s As The Eternal Cowboy) Laura Jane Grace hilariously mentioned that she swore that this was the last of the ska that was in the song.
Later on in the show, Laura Jane Grace also mentioned that the band would be playing all of their classic first full-length Reinventing Axl Rose at The Fest in Gainesville, Florida in late October so they needed to “practice.” This meant that we were in for hearing some of the band’s oldest songs, many of which hadn’t been played live in quite a while including “Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious” and “I Still Love You Juilie.” The crowd went absolutely wild when those songs were played.
Something else that was very unexpected about Against Me!’s set happened when Laura switched out her electric guitar for an acoustic one. I was thinking that we were going to get a very old school performance of another song from Reinventing Axl Rose, but instead it was a cover of “Androgynous” by The Replacements. My mind was sufficiently blown at that point.
Time flew by during Against Me!’s set. It was such a great performance that it seemed short, but then they came back on stage for a five-song encore. At first only Laura and drummer Atom Willard walked back on stage. The duo performed “Two Coffins” which Laura dedicated to all of the parents in the audience. Then, the rest of the band got back on stage and, like Laura said earlier that night, they had to “practice” songs from Reinventing Axl Rose so they busted out “Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong” and the folk-punk anthem “Baby, I’m An Anarchist.” They played the fantastic sing-a-long “Sink.Florida.Sink” (off As The Eternal Cowboy) and then they ended the night the best way Against Me! could end a show of this caliber by performing “We Laugh At Danger (And Break All The Rules)” — the absolute “cherry on top.”
If I haven’t been clear enough already this was one of the best shows that I have been to all year. The Dirty Nil were amazing, Bleached were quite the find, and no matter how many times I see Against Me!, they never fail to put on an incredible show. Being an Against Me! fan for close to ten years now, this one in particular was very special because of how many of their older songs they played and how wide-ranging their setlist was in general. There is a good chance that I won’t be making it out to Florida for The Fest this year, but this show more than made up for it already.
My only complaint was that The Fonda Theatre always overcharges for parking. Twenty-five dollars for a parking space is way too high even for Hollywood. Still, it was totally worth it.