I used to LIVE for concerts. In high school, I could go to one every night and be completely fine. Sometimes, I’d even go alone and still have an amazing time with complete strangers.
Now that I hate people and get anxiety in crowds, a lot of that excitement turns to dread the closer I get to a show.
Leading up to seeing Against Me! a friend suggested we go together, since they’d already bought tickets as well. We dished about our favorite AM! albums and tracks, and she shared with me that Bleached was another band she was excited to see that night. This all helped assuage my nervousness.
The Dirty Nil were the opening act for the night, and while many times during shows, that’s a time to mill and mingle, I truly wanted to watch the performance. As my friends said, “They have just the right amount of high school angst.” They were engaging, loud, and confident.
The Canadian alt band just received the 2017 Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year. True to their name, they thrive on a dirty, crunchy sound that still manages to stay tight. Their songs alone don’t do them justice – it’s their live stage presence that really makes them great.
Cincinnati tends to have some pretty dead and uninspiring crowds at shows, and I was surprised to see that during The Dirty Nil, there were people nodding along to the music, truly listening, not just standing there glassy-eyed.
I knew I was fucked after listening to their set, because this meant I’d be buying merch from every band that night.
Bleached took the stage next, and we were all excited to see what they had in store.
Sisters Jennifer and Jessica formed Bleached in 2011 after their band Mika Miko ended in 2009. To me, they’re a mix of grunge and punk with an unapologetic 90s vibe and killer hooks.
Jennifer once said in an interview that their producer told them they could go as hard as they wanted on songs because their hooks were so catchy. I feel like that defines a lot of their catalog.
Unfortunately, though, the sound quality really bummed me out, because I had a hard time distinguishing Jennifer’s vocals from the instruments. I’d catch about every 3rd or 4th word of her songs, but their energy alone kept the gig afloat. Later on, my husband added that it might have just been some sort of sonic black hole that we fell into based on where we were standing in the room. Bogart’s is notorious for spotty acoustics.
At the end, Jennifer traded spots with their drummer and the band continued tearing it up – proving that they’re multi-instrumentalists (or amazing at faking it) and that they really know how to end their set.
I ended up purchasing both Ride Your Heart and Welcome The Worms on vinyl from Jennifer and Jessica at their merch booth. I HATE meeting bands that I enjoy because all I can ever muster is a “Thanks! You’re amazing!” No, but really: they are.
Normally by the time the lead act comes on for the night, I’ve been miserably shifting my weight from one foot to the other, waiting for hours. But given the performances from the opening acts, it seemed like the night flew by.
Against Me! took the stage, with “True Trans Soul Rebel”, and it only got better from there. Their set list was a great mix of almost every album, with tracks ranging from “Miami” to “333” to “Sink, Florida, Sink”.
This is the third time I’ve seen them in concert, and over the years they’ve just gotten more impressive. My husband Brandon and I both noted that Laura Jane Grace seems SO much happier than the first time I saw them in concert years ago. She’s finally able to be herself, and it shows in her body language, stage banter, and general performance.
Another highlight for Brandon was Atom Willard’s unrelenting drumming. I couldn’t overlook Inge’s boyish smile the whole time – he legitimately looked thrilled to be on stage, and he was so fun to watch. James Bowman is the anchor of AM!, though. His backing vocals and solos really shine and you can tell that Laura and he have a great trust and rapport, often switching off seamlessly. After all, James has been with Laura since AM! started.
While we loved every original song the band played, a surprisingly emotional moment happened when they busted out a cover of recently-deceased Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream.” Damn, they really did that song beautiful justice.
Truly, the night couldn’t have been better for us. The crowd didn’t behave like a bag of dicks, the bands had incredible enthusiasm and passion, and I learned I should definitely get my ass to more concerts.