Concert Review

Against Me! Proves They're Punk's Best Band at Phoenix Show

​There are probably some people who'd question the credibility of any punk band playing a show staged by a carmaker, especially if that carmaker didn't just stake out prime product placement, but actually paid for the whole shebang so it could give tickets only to people who test-drove a new model. As it happens, those people missed a hell of a show last night, as Against Me! proved they're likely the world's best contemporary punk band at an intimate downtown Phoenix gig sponsored by the good folks at Kia.

Emerging from the studio where they're recording the follow-up to 2007's critically-lauded New Wave, the Gainesville band played their show at The Icehouse art gallery as a one-off, debuting tons of new material from their as-yet-unnamed new record. Based on what we heard (photo of the setlist on the jump) it's a safe bet the record will be just as good as New Wave, an album that was named the best of that year by Spin magazine.

The Icehouse, a super-cool brick-walled venue far too infrequently used for shows, lent a nice vibe to the event. With energy building throughout the evening, the place was primed long before the uniformly black-clad band took the stage. The band kept up the momentum throughout their hour and a half set. (Read what the crowd thought of the show here.)

​Though they were pimping the Kia Soul, Against Me! showed right off they weren't doing anything to shy away from controversy, starting off with a new song called "White Crosses," that appears to be about an anti-abortion monument in the band's native Florida and which includes the lyrics, "white crosses on the church lawn, I want to smash them up."

I, for one, salute the ballsy South Korean carmaker's commitment to free speech in this era of Fox News led boycotts.

From there it was a song called "Bitter Divisions," before the familiar chords of "New Wave" hit. A brilliant new song called "Teenage Anarchist," was a highlight of the show, demonstrating the sort of sophisticated take on politics a band should be able to muster a decade in to their career. It's a song that ought to shame that pathetic other "Against" band in to changing their name to avoid any confusion.

"White People For Peace" -- a song that moved an audience member to swipe the guitarist's microphone off the stage and sing 'harmony' until a roadie busted him -- and other old favorites made up most of the middle of the show before "Thrash Unreal" led in to an encore break. A new song, "Bob Dylan Dream #12 and 35" and an older deep cut "Anna is a Fucking Stool Pigeon," made up the encore. The band left stage but remained in a side lot signing autographs for at least 15 minutes after their set.

Unlike most people at the show I didn't have to do a test drive to get my tickets -- and my car is only two years old anyway -- but it's worth mentioning that I'm left with a positive impression of that little hip-hatch as a result of this show. If Against Me! had been anything less than brilliant it might be worth accusing them of selling out, but so long as they can deliver shows like this, they're above reproach.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Against Me! at The Icehouse, sponsored by the Kia Soul.

Better Than: Any show I've since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Marquee.

Personal Bias: I drive a Nissan.

Random Detail: Who knew that local concert promoter and contributor Psyko Steve had a cameo in an Against Me! video? I did not until tonight, when Steve said, "This is the song I'm in the video for," during "Thrash Unreal." Sure enough, you can spot him for the first time around 1:13 in the below video.

Further Listening: You did watch that video right?

By The Way: No, seriously, that's Steve.

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Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar