Against Me! finds support in K-Town

Montreal-based Planet Smashers rocking out at The Scherzo last November.
Montreal-based Planet Smashers rocking out at The Scherzo last November.
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Concert Review: Against Me! and The Planet Smashers at the Royal Canadian Legion, May 25

When one mentions political punk music, the names that usually come to mind include The Clash, The Subhumans, Propagandhi, Dead Kennedys and Black Flag, among others. An intensely political four-piece from Gainesville, Florida, Against Me! has been spreading its message of activism and anti-capitalism through frantic, folk-influenced punk anthems with larynx-shredding vocals and lyrics that place them akin to the poetic nature of Bob Dylan in the world of punk.

Thus, their date at the Royal Canadian Legion on May 25 brought out the local faction of punks in droves. Coupled with Canadian ska godfathers The Planet Smashers as well as Murder by Death, The Saint Catherines and The Peacocks, the show featured the usual checklist of attendees: the scruffy haired, sensitive punker armoured in a cardigan, the grizzled-looking old school punkers and the try-too-hard youngster rocking a Dead Kennedys shirt.

After the rocking styles of The Peacocks and the vintage, 1950s rockabilly vibe of The Saint Catherines, Murder By Death took to the comically small stage. Taking their moniker from the 1976 Robert Moore movie of the same name, Murder By Death brought a sound that is reminiscent of a less heavy Isis, a less bleak Neurosis and a more vocal-filled Red Sparowes. The five-person troupe played a set of dark and doomy, atmospheric rock songs, with subject matter ranging from zombies to cops busting crack houses. The band’s strong points were the pounding drumming and the addition of electric cello.

Next at bat were The Planet Smashers, the legends of third-wave ska world. Since 1993 these boys have been bringing their skankable tunes drenched in fun and booze to concert halls around the globe. Hailing from Montreal, the Smashers were in Kingston for the second time in 2005 to support their current disc Mighty and their upcoming release Unstoppable.

The Smashers wasted no time in getting the crowd moving. Everyone in the crowd was moving: from the hardcore moshers that resembled a cyclone in the middle of the room, to the idle head-bobbers. The frontman and second guitarist had great stage presence and the horn section kept things rocking by jumping about, switching positions on the monitors and generally getting the crowd involved.

The band played new songs like “Bullets to the Ground” as well as old favourites like “Life of the Party.” At one point in their set, the band got everyone in attendance to sit on the ground and on the count of ten to pop up and resume rocking out. This was a great touch to their set and the crowd licked it up like a 1983 KISS hit.

With the departure of The Planet Smashers, it was time for the main event. In the red corner, Against Me!, and in the blue corner, the audience. Who would triumph? The band opened with a rousing number that saw an explosion of movement and a barrage of screams and chanting. It was at this time that one audience member decided to disrobe, save a hat and untied boots; Iggy Pop, eat your heart out. Against Me! hit upon older favourites from their album Re-Inventing Axl Rose including crowd favourite “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong,” “Those Anarcho Punks are Mysterious” and the title track. Unfortunately, due to illness in the band, however, Against Me! was only able to play for 35 minutes. Yet the looks of joy on the faces of the spent punkers spoke volumes. Say what you want—punk’s not dead.

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