coming-out party for the opening band’s Laura Jane Grace continues, June 12 at
the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Md.
By Logan K. Young
I hadn’t come for Ian Astbury. And neither had
Sure, even now, The Cult is a much better band
than Against Me! ever will be. Indeed. That Super Bowl XLVI advert aside, Astbury remains a far more scrupled frontman than Tom Gabel. You see,
Gabel’s idea of anarchy has always been more Chumbawamba than Che Guevara.
Slumming a night or two in C-Squat or getting a Crass tattoo on your ankle does not an anarcho make (especially not
when you cover up Dave King’s art with a Rebel Alliance logo).
The thing is, though, Tom Gabel no longer leads
Against Me! Effective May 8, 2012, he was replaced by Laura Jane Grace. And
that’s whom some 500 kids, plus myself, suffered Live Nation hegemony to catch
on a school night.
It just so happened the whole wide world of rock
Now, for the demographic served fullest by
Gabel’s angsty pop punk — suburban youths, in detention, more interested in
Xbox than Marxism — it must’ve been really something. After all, all they know
about being trans is what they’ve seen from ‘Adam‘ on Degrassi.
Wrong. Thankfully, kids today are growing up in
a country where LGBT issues are at the forefront of political discourse. If
their President has no qualms about one man marrying another one, why the hell
should they? I hasten to suggest that the transgendered plight is no longer
that big a deal; adolescent ennui is contagious. (I know, I used to be
one.) But the fact of the matter is this: Coming out as a gender other than the
one you were born into doesn’t have the stigma that it once did.
Kids really do like the darndest things, though.
Again, it’s probably not fair to insinuate what
I’m about to…but doing a Wenner Media cover story a week before your national
tour at least looks like an October surprise. And taking the stage at The
Fillmore (no, no that Fillmore) to Bill Conti’s theme from Rocky,
doesn’t exactly scream subtlety. Moreover, when the first two songs of your set
are called “True Trans Soul Rebel” and “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” well, you
clearly ain’t bein’ recondite.
To be fair, Gabel-gone-Grace never explicitly
acknowledged the 800-pound albatross in the club. And with nothing but a
barrette and some too dangly earrings to suggest anything overtly feminine,
from the cheap seats, everything looked as straight as an I–formation in hir native Gainesville.
Fortunately, the hormones Grace recently started haven’t yet affected Gabel’s
trademark growl. (It’s for this very reason that chondrolaryngoplasty is off the table.) So,
active rock hits like “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” and “Thrash Unreal” still
burned with the under-21 resentment of the empire’s no re-entry edict.
Unfortunately, becoming Laura Grace hasn’t made
these songs any better either. Overwrought and under-written, Against Me!
numbers are what they are — would-be anthems, full of radio-ready fury, but
not saying all that much. “If I could have chosen, I would have been born a
woman,” sang Gabel in “The Ocean.” Touching, sincere and maybe even profound,
alas, it proved a case of too little insight, too late in the set.
Eventually, Tommy Gabel will have something to
sing about as Laura Jane Grace. I’m sure of it. The road to transition being so
perditious, at the very least, it will be cathartic. Artists turn tragedy into
triumph; it’s simply what they do. Look, I’m all for empowerment, resolutely
against every possible impediment to it. Right now, however, the only thing
going against Grace is the music she wrote as Gabel. I, for one, will be
waiting for Against Me!’s new and improved songs of experience.
That said, Ian Astbury and his Cult played an