As a critic, sometimes you get paid to be in the right place at the right time. I'd somehow missed the fact that Against Me! was playing at Philadelphia's Electric Factory this past Sunday until my Inquirer editor asked me to cover the show — something about the phrase "opening for The Cult" evidently induced some form of temporary amnesia. But being present for the band's first tour with singer Laura Jane Grace — who, up until a few months ago, was known as singer Tommy Gabel — turned out to be a genuine privilege. I suppose the fact that the throng pressed up against the stage had paid headliner prices to watch the band play a 45-minute opening set meant they were a self-selecting group of diehard fans, but even so, it was amazing to watch heavily tattooed dudes jab their fingers in the air, biceps flexing, as they shouted along with the words to the unreleased new song "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," whose lyrics include the lines, "You want them to see you like they see every other girl / They just see a faggot." Even more extraordinary was the moment when an aggrieved looking fan, dressed for the occasion in an Against Me! t-shirt, yelled out, "Play some old shit, Tom!" and the man behind tapped him softly on the shoulder and gently chided him, "It's Laura now." More on the show, including a few words on the ostensible headliner, in my Inquirer review.
As a codicil, here's a review I did a few weeks back on Wish Me Away, a documentary about country star Chely Wright's decision to come out as a lesbian. The movie spends a lot of time worrying about whether the country music establishment can ever embrace an openly gay performer, but I wonder if the individual fans might be turn out to be more open-minded than the industry that services them gives them credit. If Carrie Underwood can embrace gay marriage, maybe we're not as polarized as some would have us believe.