Words: Miljan Milekić
God, I needed a show like this. A glimpse of familiarity in just a couple of days from moving to another city half a world away. And in nights and shows like this, even the unfamiliar becomes familiar. The beauty of punk rock. And with three diverse, yet great acts, it couldn’t go wrong.
The opening slot was given to a local artist Anna Haverstock, who earned her place on the stage in the most wholesome way possible – with a Tweet. Lande Hekt, who was opening for Laura Jane Grace and Mobina Galore up until the night before in Winnipeg has fallen ill and had to cancel both shows, leading to Grace sending out a call for the opener on the Social Network. Haverstock was the quickest, and if I may, the most perfect for the role.
In weeks prior to moving to Saskatoon, I did a little bit of research on the local scene, and she was one name I’d written down as one to check out, so this gig was a perfect opportunity. Without the backing band, alone with her guitar, Haverstock went through a good portion of the music, showcasing her blend of folk, pop and punk, and successfully adapting her sound to a more intimate setting. Clearly at home, she had great support from an already solid number of people in the crowd, and according to her chatter between the songs, quite a few of her friends. And that was maybe the best part of the evening – that banter between the artists and the crowd that went through all three sets, creating the friendly and cozy atmosphere that made everyone feel at home.
Winnipeg two-piece Mobina Galore came in next, ready to fuck things up. Their full-blown punk rock sound may have been a bit odd choice between two (almost) acoustic solo performers, but it all somehow blended perfectly together. Mobina Galore is one of the hottest names in punk rock in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Their set was everything a punk rock set should be, and more – raging guitars, pounding drums, vocals on the edge of cracking, broken guitar amp, and lots of energy. What else can we ask for?
With a relatively new, 2019’s album ‘Don’t Worry,’ which gained them international recognition, under their belt, Mobina Galore have enough firepower to be a force to reckon with. Add in the freshly released ‘Live from the Park Theatre,’ and you’ll get the band in the best shape. ‘Escape Plan’ is already shaping to be a genre classic, but tracks like ‘Whiskey Water,’ ‘California,’ ‘Dig Myself Out,’ or ‘Vancouver,’ certainly don’t lack in quality or energy. For the very end, the band saved slow, emotional ‘Talk Me To Sleep,’ making a perfect transition to the night’s headliner.
The first, and only time I saw Laura Jane Grace on stage was back in 2015, when Against Me! played Punk Rock Holiday festival in Slovenia, and to this day, it’s one of my all-time favorite shows. So, the chance to catch this tour was one not to miss. Not that I’m saying we timed our moving date and flights around this show, but…
Alone on the stage, armed only with an acoustic guitar, Grace delivered a strong set, handpicking songs from her solo music, and works with The Devouring Mothers, and, obviously, Against Me!. Opening with ‘True Trans Soul Rebel,’ one of the most powerful songs ever written, Grace immediately set the tone for what was to come. She quickly followed with ‘White Crosses,’ and ‘Dead Friend,’ and at that point, it was clear the crowd was all-in. Almost every song was accompanied by an introduction, explanation, or a simple exchange with the crowd about anything and everything, from weather, body odor, non-alcoholic beer, or real estate prices in Miller Beach, Indiana, and yet, nothing was out of place, nothing felt forced or faked.
‘The Swimming Pool Song,’ ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong,’ ‘I Hate Chicago,’ ‘Baby, I’m an Anarchist!,’ or The Mountain Goats‘ ‘The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton,’ all one of them had its place in the set, and almost each of them a story to go with it. Maybe the most powerful was the ‘Dysphoria Hoodie’ from her upcoming new record, which she even played in a hoodie she wore during her transition. As the show was coming to a close, Grace fired up a massive rendition of ‘Black Me Out,’ followed by equally big ‘Sink Florida, Sink’ and some confetti action. The very end, however, was reserved for ‘Two Coffins’ and ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist.’
Against Me! are rightfully considered legends in the genre of punk rock. Their songs successfully stood the test of time and still speak to people the way they did a decade or two ago, and in my opinion, it’s mostly because of Laura Jane Grace‘s songwriting. Hearing some of these songs in such stripped-down renditions, without the wall of noise to support them, only proved how strong they actually are, and yet, provided a very different experience. Adding some of her amazing solo work to the equation only secured this night as one to remember.