Live Concert Review

Against Me!, Japanther, Saint Alvia

Live (September 12th, 2008)

Edmonton Event Centre - Edmonton, Albert
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So the fall concert season has finally started, and it looks as if it will be the first solid concert season of the year. It started with the likes of Rancid and was quickly followed up by this show; a show who’s headlining act has received some of the most polarizing reactions in recent memory. Everyone seems to either hate them or love them. Of course, I’m talking about Against Me!, a band who has been making waves over the past two years with each and every one of their actions being carefully scrutinized and analyzed by the ever loving message board society. Their cross Canada tour made equally as many waves, however their fans were still out in full force as the band started closing in on the tour’s end; and those who were there were treated to a pretty entertaining punk rock show.

Burlington, Ontario’s Saint Alvia were first up and they began their set in a very unique way: by letting a university professor introduce them. Gordon Laxer came on to promote a protest that was happening the following day and raise awareness for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. Unfortunately for him, most of what he said went understood and while people were happily chanting “down with Bush” – very few actually knew why they were chanting it. As Laxer left the stage the six piece started their actual set with a nice mixture of songs from both their recently released Between The Linesalbum and their self-titled debut. Hitting tracks like Between The Lines, Blonde Kryptonite, Americafioso, Don’t Wanna Wait Forever and Business as UsualSaint Alvia played a solid set that saw them showing off their idea of a genre-free rock band.

The band were strong enough to attract numerous fans to their merch table afterwards and would probably pull a good crowd back again when they next travel through town. That’s much more than what can be said for the following band, Japanther, who were actually painful to listen to. They came on with a decent concept: a bassist, a drummer and a mass amount of sampling with vocals sang through microphones that looked like old school telephones. The Brooklyn duo were set to be memorable – and they were, just not in the right limelight. They focused way too much on distorted, industrialized vocals and the use of those previously mentioned samples. The drummer, who attempted to pump up the crowd by swearing and raising his hands up, simply faked drumming through any of the complicated drum beats and instead let the pre-recorded audio do all the work and the only time anyone from the crowd got really into it was when they started a Ramones cover. But that only lasted the “hey ho! lets go!” part before they split off into another distorted song with no appeal. Its very rare that I would avoid seeing a band live again, but Japanther are one of those bands.

Luckily, Against Me! made up for the Brooklyn’s mishap and stormed the stage with confidence and intensity. Opening with New Wave, the band played most of their major label debut – in fact they only skipped out on Animal and The Ocean as once again James took over Tegan Quinn’s role in Borne On The FM Waves of The Heart. The band didn’t forget their fans who had been there from the start either as they played some rousing renditions of Pints of Guiness Make You Strong, Jordan’s First Choice, Walking Is Still Honest, This Shit Rules, Cliche Guevara, Miami, Don’t Lose Touch and From Her Lips to God’s Ears (The Energizer). Like always, the band opted not to speak, but instead just sang with as little banter as possible. After a demand for an encore, Tom Gable came on and debuted one of his new solo songs, Amputations. It would’ve been nice to have heard Anna Is A Fucking Stool Pigeonor I Can’t See You But I Know You’re There but either way it was still a good way to kick off the encore which also featured Sink Florida Sink, Up The Cuts, and We Laugh At Danger (And Break All The Rules).

Against Me! were as tight as ever, put on a solid show with energy and conviction. However, with a bigger venue came more people; and with a major radio single came more people who don’t normally go to concerts. This made the show slightly less memorable than, say, a year and a half ago at the Dinwoodie Lounge which saw the band playing to 600 people instead of 1,700. Then again, you can’t blame the band for some annoying crowd members.