Friday, March 13, 2020

Live Shows: Against Me!, Stef Chura, and Evan Greer, Gateway City Arts, Holyoke, MA 3/11/20

March 11 was a weird, weird night to go out to see live music. A global pandemic had just been declared, and what had started out as making the most of it and trying to have what could be one last night out before everyone gets confined to their houses turned into wondering if we should all be there. But, at least there was fantastic music to be heard.

Boston's Evan Greer was brought in for local support, and, as would be expected, a transgender, anti-capitalist folk singer very quickly won over Against Me! fans. Performing solo, songs like "Last iPhone" were stripped of the pop punk trappings and re-imagined as folk punk. "First Boy" and "Liberty Is a Statue" were perfect for the evening. Surprisingly, Greer was given about forty five minutes, which is a huge amount of time for local support. She truly won over the crowd and could have played for twice as long.

Stef Chura was the main draw for me. Midnight was my favorite album of 2019 and I have been dying to see her live for a few years now. Seeing as her music isn't nearly as political and far less punk than Against Me!, she didn't go over as well with the crowd. There was a lot of polite clapping (and some guy that felt the need to scream-yodel and yell out "Now that's what I call music!" during and in between some songs), but did win over most of the crowd by the end of the set. Playing as a four piece band, songs like "All I Do is Lie" and particularly "Method Man" had a new bite and really stressed the 90's indie rock influence in her music. She even brought Ezra Furman on stage to take on Will Toledo's part during "Sweet Sweet Midnight." I'm really looking forward to seeing her own headlining show one of these days.

Between Stef Chura and Against Me!'s set, all hell seemed to break loose. News broke that Tom Hanks had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and the NBA season was being suspended. I was right near the front of the stage and when the pop punk pushing and shoving started, I did something that is very rare for me: I bailed on my position and moved towards the back of the venue. It seems like the younger crowd is really sticking to the "It's just like the flu" line and the more hard edge punks still adopt the "We're all gonna die someday" attitude I never could. It wasn't that the pit was even remotely rough. I just couldn't imagine the person that smelled like cat pee was very adamant about washing their hands. When crowd surfing started, I just wanted to scream out "We're in a pandemic! Stop touching each other!"

From my spot towards the back of the crowd, I found it hard not to keep refreshing my news feeds. Like I said, it was a hell of an hour of news. But Against Me! kept pulling me back in. It helps that they aren't really promoting a new album, and every single song felt like a fan favorite. "Thrash Unreal," "I Was a Teenage Anarchist," and "White People for Peace" got huge (and deserved!) reactions from the crowd. "True Trans Soul Rebel?" So great live. It made me wish I could stop being paranoid and join everyone else jumping around at the front of the stage. Hopefully when everything settles down we can all try it again.

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