Eric Soloman, lead vocalist of O Pioneers, pointed into the audience and shouted, “We’re going to play a few songs before Against Me! comes out and destroys your face!” I passed that statement off as hyperbole, but at the end of the night it seemed an oddly appropriate summation of the sold-out Friday night concert at Velvet Jones. The opening bands came on, warmed the crowd, but were ultimately dwarfed when Against Me! took the stage and blew us all away.
The all-punk show opened with Dead Country. Though the crowd was sparse and mostly concentrated near the bar, singer Nick Long invited patrons towards the stage and the band quickly won the room over with their enthusiasm and affability (despite sounding a little repetitive). The floor swelled with concertgoers by the time Roll the Tanks hit the stage. Though the lead singer claimed a strained voice, the band cranked out an excellent performance, though, admittedly I’m a sucker for successful Billy Bragg covers.
O Pioneers were the last act before the main gig. They maintained the energy level in the crowd, but the lead singer’s screaming vocals seemed to lack a little cohesion. After their set finished, a green screen lowered and covered the stage. Shortly after midnight, the screen rose up, Against Me! came on and promptly proceeded to destroy our faces. There’s something vaguely juvenile about the phrase “destroy your face!” It’s the sort of retort one expects from an obnoxious brat who’s just been slighted, but there’s a youthful energy in Against Me!’s live presence that seemed to channel that exact petulant attitude through their guitar riffs and drumbeats. In contrast, frontman Tom Gabel’s lyrics have an edge to them that injects a modest dose of maturity, elevating obnoxiousness into righteous insolence and with refrains like, “Do you remember when you were young and wanted to set the world on fire?” Screaming loud and playing hard, the band had no trouble infusing the spectators with that same attitude. Over the crescendo, fists were raised, choruses were echoed, fans jumped onstage, and crowd surfing ensued. We were teen anarchists, we were looking for a revolution, we weren’t losing touch, we weren’t going home to Evelyn. We were punk rock. I knew none of those things were actually true, but it felt like they were, right up until the band tossed their last empty water bottle out into the crowd.