Thursday, October 18, 2018
News

Review: Against Me! kicks off friendly, familial Big Pre-Fest in Little Ybor

Tacked up above Against Me!'s merch table on Wednesday at the Orpheum was a hand-scrawled plea on a sheet of rumpled cardboard: "We need weed -- or Laura will die!"

Seeing as how Laura Jane Grace was still standing at the end of Night 1 of Big Pre-Fest in Little Ybor, Against Me!'s buds in Florida must have been pretty kind.

But then, what else would you expect from what's quietly become one of the punk world's friendliest, most familial traditions?

For the fifth straight year, the two days leading up to Gainesville's Fest have brought dozens of punk and indie bands to clubs across Ybor City, a sort of ice-breaking soirée for hundreds of far-flung punks in denim vests and Fat Wreck Chords tees. It was an intimate punk love-in before the bacchanalian orgy up north, and as Gainesville's raging, righteous ambassadors to the world, Against Me! was the perfect host.

In the first of two straight headlining nights, Against Me! looked excited to be playing their first Pre-Fest. Spinning, kicking and beaming beneath her stringy, sweat-soaked mane, Grace had a giddy-up gallop in her step from opening track Pints of Guinness Make You Strong, from their 2002 debut Against Me! is Reinventing Axl Rose.

Against Me! is playing Axl Rose in full at Fest, and their two Pre-Fest shows are being used to work out some of the kinks of songs they haven’t played in years – or in some cases, Grace sad, never at all in their current lineup. But those they did play got a huge response, including Jordan’s 1st Choice, We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules) and the gloriously gleeful Those Anarcho Punks are Mysterious.

They also dropped in a rarity from the Axl Rose era, the early single The Disco Before the Breakdown ("I apologize in advance if I f--- this song up; you know this one better than us," Grace said). But when they got through it with enormous energy intact, bassist Inge Johansson raised his fists in triumph.

From the roaring Rebecca to the glammy Black Me Out to the pedal-pushing I Was a Teenage Anarchist, Grace’s performance was full-throttle and frenetic from start to finish, which might be why a constant stream of stage-divers surged up alongside her to jump back down into the pit. She encouraged everyone there to be who they are and do what they feel like, dedicating Transgender Dysphoria Blues to "anyone that feels uncomfortable in their own skin, anyone who feels "isolated and alienated."

"For the next three minutes, I want us to push away this flaming f---ing garbage can we call reality, and just exist right here," she said.

By "here," she might as well have been talking about Florida. Several songs throughout their set referenced the state, including Sink Florida Sink, Miami and We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules).

Against Me! was by far the biggest band present on Wednesday -- Thursday's better lineup also features Beach Slang, the Lillingtons, Rainer Maria, Smoking Popes and You Blew It! -- and so Wednesday offered a little more of a spotlight for top Tampa Bay talent.

Costumed, cartoonish punks Wolf-Face shut down the Crowbar stage, while over at the Dirty Shame Awkward Age, who dedicated their song Figurehead as "a big middle finger to Richard Spencer for coming to speak at UF," said singer Vic Alvarez "and a big thumbs up for everyone who showed up to tell him to eff off." And evocative indie rockers DieAlps!, whose excellent new album Our City deserves every spotlight it can get, got to play a few of those songs for fans from far and wide.

Other national bands offered their own highlights, from deep dips into their catalogs to twists on their usual sets.

Singer-guitarist Caleb Cordes played a solo, heartfelt, "very adult contemporary version" of his indie rock band Sinai Vessel's music at Tequilas. Later in the same space, London emocore outfit Apologies, I Have None drew an intensely passionate crowd screaming every word. At the Orpheum, Off With Their Heads tossed fun-size candy from plastic jack-o'-lantern buckets during anthemic, rage-along closer Clear the Air. And for one intense 30-second blast of fury, neck-snapping punks Teenage Bottlerocket instructed the Orpheum crowd to pogo "Like we're Propagandhi and it's 1994," said singer Kody Templeman, and it more or less worked.

And Michigan ska veterans Mustard Plug played a 20th-anniversary, full-album performance of their LP Evildoers Beware! -- their last such performance ever, they said -- to an eager set of skankers in the pit.

"This is our sixth Fest, maybe?" said Mustard Plug singer Dave Kirchgessner. "Five or six? Who's counting, really?"

The guys from Direct Hit! were -- it was their fifth, and they did so with singer Nick Woods wearing a Tom Petty and the Headtbreakers shirt. He has good reason for the Gainesville love -- the raucous Milwaukee pop-punk group's first Fest years ago, when they played opposite Lagwagon and still drew a packed crowd at the now defunct club 1982, was "maybe a top 5 coolest thing that has ever happened to me."

On all four stages at Pre-Fest 5, that was the sentiment of the night.

"This is the only good thing that's going to happen for a while," Off With Their Heads singer Ryan Young told fans at the Orpheum, "so do your best to take it home with you."

No need: It's happening all over again on Thursday.

Click here for details.

-- Jay Cridlin

     
 
Comments
Review: The Breeders finally splash back into Tampa with loose but lively concert at the Ritz Ybor

Review: The Breeders finally splash back into Tampa with loose but lively concert at the Ritz Ybor

Twenty-five years have passed since the Breeders last came close to Tampa Bay, opening for none other than Nirvana at the Lakeland Civic Center in 1993.Yet when they finally returned, playing the Ritz Ybor on Thursday night, they sounded like they ne...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Democrats in key Florida Congressional races raised eye-popping sums in the third quarter

Democrats in key Florida Congressional races raised eye-popping sums in the third quarter

Florida Democrats picked up some major fundraising momentum during the third quarter, with candidates out-raising their Republican opponents in seven key Congressional races.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning cap off five-game homestand with 3-1 win over Detroit

Lightning cap off five-game homestand with 3-1 win over Detroit

TAMPA — The Lightning was a broken record in training camp, repeating how it needed to start the season strong. Last season's 15-2-2 start was the best in franchise history and launched it toward a playoff run. The Lightning wanted to do that a...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Diana C. Nearhos’ takeaways from Thursday’s Lightning-Red Wings game

Diana C. Nearhos’ takeaways from Thursday’s Lightning-Red Wings game

Steven Stamkos scored his first goal of the season in the second period. Entering the game, he wasn't alone among the league's top players to be goal-less. Last season's league MVP, the Devils' Taylor Hall, didn't get his first until Thursday night. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning journal: Rolling four lines is key to early-season wins

Lightning journal: Rolling four lines is key to early-season wins

TAMPA — The fourth line can often be a nice way of saying "players who aren't used much." But not on the Lightning. When coach Jon Cooper says he rolls four lines, he means it.Tampa Bay has the depth for it, and Cooper believes that was the rea...
Updated: 2 hours ago

District volleyball: St. Petersburg ends a near five-year winless streak against Palm Harbor University

Finally.After five years of frustration against district rival Palm Harbor University, St. Petersburg finally defeated the Hurricanes in the final of the Class 8A, District 10 tournament, 23-25, 25-22, 27-25, 25-20. The Green Devils (22-5) will host ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Police Chief Brian Dugan on race and policing in Tampa: ‘Let’s rip the band-aid off’

Police Chief Brian Dugan on race and policing in Tampa: ‘Let’s rip the band-aid off’

TAMPA — Police Chief Brian Dugan and City Council chairman Frank Reddick sparred at a City Council meeting Thursday over citations police are issuing to black bicyclists.Dugan defended his officers, insisting that racial targeting is not involv...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Michael Drejka wants to fire one of his lawyers

Michael Drejka wants to fire one of his lawyers

LARGO — Michael Drejka has moved to fire one of his defense attorneys, writing in an affidavit that lawyer Lysa Clifton solicited him in jail the day after his Aug. 13 arrest and refused his request that she withdraw from the case.The affidavit, sign...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa chief wants council to see larger context in ticketing of black bicyclists

Tampa chief wants council to see larger context in ticketing of black bicyclists

TAMPA — Police Chief Brian Dugan will deliver a breakdown of bicyclists stopped and ticketed by police at today’s City Council meeting, and the data will confirm what some council members already suspect: Black bicyclists are disproportionately stopp...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs QB Jameis Winston gives, and other teams tend to take away

Bucs QB Jameis Winston gives, and other teams tend to take away

TAMPA — Jameis Winston put up gaudy passing numbers in his first start of the season last week, placing the Bucs within one play of a comeback win over the Falcons.But instead of his Winston's four touchdowns and nearly 400 passing yards, his t...
Updated: 4 hours ago