Against Me! couldn't get on stage fast enough Wednesday night in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Fans staked out their spots, crowding the Freebird Live! stage 30 minutes before the show. Ten minutes beforehand, chants of "A-gainst Me! A-gainst Me!" grew loud as they could barely stand the anticipation of hearing the first strum of the band's short tour of Florida.
The show was worth their wait, and for the next few months, they'll brag about being privy to a few yet-to-be released songs.
Yesterday morning, lead singer Tom Gabel announced on his blog that the new AM! album produced by Butch Vig, White Crosses, would likely come out in early June. He posted the cover image, a nude faceless woman in black and white, leaning in front of a mirror with hair draped over her breasts.
Gabel and crew started the show with "Because of the Shame," a track off the new album, but the unfamiliar tune didn't phase the crowd. Within 20 seconds, a drink flew over the front rows and splattered on the stage. Before Gabel even uttered a sound, the crowd surfing began. Once he sang the first line, "We used to get high together," the pace never let up.
It was subtle, and perhaps went unnoticed by most, but a keyboardist partially hidden behind a wide brick column added to "Because of the Shame." Some might say keyboards are a strange addition to punk, but the sound was so muted by guitars and drums that it barely affected the sound -- although it plays more prominently on studio versions previewed for SPIN.com. Onstage, the keyboardist remained out of the spotlight, coming on periodically to add acoustic or electric guitar.
They quickly moved into "New Wave," the title track from their major label debut, which was dubbed 2007's best album by SPIN. It was a smart move to follow up something new with a song guaranteed to get the crowd singing along.
AM! used that strategy all night, mixing new songs like "High Pressure Low" and "Suffocation" into the set brilliantly by flanking them with crowd favorites like " Walking Is Still Honest" and "Miami."
"White Crosses," the title track for their new album, was especially well-received. By the end, some of the crowd was singing along as if they'd heard the song a hundred times before.
Set in St. Augustine, Fla., "White Crosses" is a continuation of the band's left-leaning political commentary. Denouncing pro-life white crosses on church lawns, the ones intended by right-wing Christians to represent deaths caused by abortion, AM! gave a strong reminder that apathy is unacceptable.
"I want to smash them all," Gabel screamed. And there was no doubt he meant it. Imagine that he rearranged the hundreds of white crosses spread out on a church lawn to spell, "Kiss my ass," then set them on fire.
Tom Gabel beamed all night like a new father (which he is, as his wife had a baby girl in November). He smiled without inhibition in between songs, talking very little and keeping focus on the music. The longest pause was when he stopped and threw bottles of water into the sweaty crowd and said, "Ya'll take care of each other out there."
If Against Me! was just warming up with a show close to their home, the Canadians who'll watch them open for Canuck rockers Billy Talent throughout March are in for some raucous nights.
Because of the Shame
Pints of Guinness Make You Strong
The Disco Before the Breakdown
Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Ballad Fists
Reinventing Axl Rose
High Pressure Low
Walking Is Still Honest
Sink, Florida, Sink
Don't Lose Touch
Tonight We're Gonna Give It 35%
I Still Love You Julie