Closing Southampton’s premier punk themed festival WTFEST, the audience turned up in great anticipation for Against Me! Florida’s finest punk rock outfit. We find the band in the middle of an extensive European headlining tour and main support for Frank Turner on his latest UK Tour. The band are no strangers to supporting big acts recently opening up for Blink 182 and Foo Fighters. But for any hardcore Against Me! fan, seeing the band up close and personal in a intimate venue like the Talking Heads is a must, to bring the life the soul of their music nurtured in the underground punk scene to life.
The venue was packed out early on to see all bands on the bill but as I was running a bit late I missed opening act Great Cynics performing an acoustic set, but I did managed to arrive in time for Our Time Down Here. The band packed a lot of energy into their set, presenting a raw old school sound, reminding me of early Alkaline Trio and Senses Fail.
Main support came in the form of Crazy Arm a punk rock fusion band, mixing tones of folk and country, a mix that gelled well to provide catchy rhythm and a good live performance. Audience interaction also helped bring songs alive when the music stopped for the lyrics to take hold. The vocals sounded almost Bruce Springsteen-like in the song ‘Tribes/Animals’ which sounded refreshing in a punk context but stand out song of the night was ‘Broken By The Wheel’. A song that builds up gradually in different textual layers, with a folk inspired riff that leads the song into more punky territories, which results in the audience ultimately going crazy.
Beginning their set in an understated fashion ‘Against Me!’ showed that they like their songs to do the talking by keeping their set almost continuous, starting the next song before finishing the previous. This move proved to be effective keeping energy at an all time high, while also allowing the setlist to amass more than twenty songs. With six albums and many other EP’s available, the band had a lot of material to choose form, but they chose to provide a varied set-list playing old songs such as ‘I Still Love You Julie’ & ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong’, along with newer songs like ‘I Was A Teenage Antichrist’ & ‘White Crosses’. The mix of new and old material provided an effective blend of how their music has travelled across the years, with more rough and ready songs leading into more catchy guitar sounds and bigger sing along choruses.
Declaring early on that his voice was escaping him, lead vocalist Tom Gabel incited the crowd to join him, advice that was responded by loud vocal responses across the whole evening. Some fans excitement led them to take to the stage sharing the microphone or to stage dive back into the depths of the Talking Heads.
The encore provided the audience with a cover of The Clash’s Janie Jones, a statement appreciated by the crowd, who in turn showed they knew the song too, bellowing back the lyrics. The show ended on a high note with ‘We Laugh At Danger (And Break All The Rules)’ taken off their début album ‘Reinventing Axel Rose’ providing everyone with a victorious send off. The song allowed the audience and band to stand united with the lyrics lifting above the instruments, leaving everyone to feel satisfied with the evenings proceedings.
Pictures courtesy Benji Walker
Words: Dale Davies