Hair spray, ripped jean vests, black eyeliner. The masses had come out to see their favorite bands, whether it be a 16 year-old teenager getting ready to see Against Me!, or the 40-ish punks here to see their old-school favorites, The Cult. Everyone was united in their use of hair spray, ripped jean vests and black eyeliner. This was kind of an expensive show for the Ogden, I'm guessing because of the nature of the headliner being kind of a big deal (I guess?); regular tickets were about $40 and VIP tickets were $100. Very un-punk rock prices for a very punk-rock show, the most punk-rock aspect of which being the courageous announcement by singer Tom Gabel of Against Me! of his decision to become transgender and change his name to Laura Jane Grace.
The Icarus Line is very loud. Their set consisted of songs that were bass-heavy and the drum kit was thunderous. This is what they must mean by hard rock; it was beating up my ears. Joe Cardamone's shirtless body was nearly translucent as he swiveled around the stage and his voice ricocheted against the bass chords being fired off by Alvin DeGuzman.
I would say Cardamone was certainly going for the "sensual-by-way-of-disturbing" kind of stage presence, something you might see if Jim Morrison was really skinny and hyper like Iggy Pop. In between songs, it was hard to tell when Cardamone was improving some one-off remarks or if what he was saying was actually part of a song. For example, Cardamone slinkily ran his fingers over his floor monitor with his head held low whilst repeating into his mic, "You hurt me," then with a quick swivel raised his voice to exclaim, "You gave me herpes!" and turned his back to the crowd as the initial base chord for another song began. In summation: a little eccentric and very hard (rock).
Against Me! is a band that began when Gabel moved to Gainesville, FL to play for swampy college kids. As he gained three other band members, the band became popular with their anarchy-tinged music that chronicled the experience of being broke, getting drunk and sometimes throwing bricks in the new Starbucks storefront window. 15 years later, with a little more polished sound and a new drummer, it's surprising that this band is so popular and still attracting the younger crowd. I guess the music is just what you want to hear when you're a teenager, with major themes usually sticking to angst, friendship and speaking up against what isn't fair or intelligent.
The band came on stage and presented themselves to the mixed age range that had come to see the second performance of the new Laura Jane since the news broke by Rolling Stone in early May. Against Me! started the night with "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" which will be the same title of the forthcoming album, according to Rolling Stone. They played a few new songs, and then stuck to mostly the big singles, like the more recent "Thrash Unreal" and "White Crosses", and older, punk-at-heart tunes like "Pints of Guinness Make You Stronger" and "Don't Lose Touch". As the night wore on, the teenagers tried their best to jump around but it was all very tame in my book. The older fans that were standing with their vodka tonics and Coors Lights took a sidestep to avoid any elbows; a highlighter-yellow-haired girl attempted to crowd surf and was airborne for 10 seconds at the most. I have a friend whose fiance is really conflicted with Gabel's recent decision; having grown up listening to Against Me!'s songs since high school, I have to imagine that he feels a little confused, even if he can't outright say it. A real testament to the experience of seeing these guys on stage in Denver was that I felt like they were the same band I saw in Gainesville; their music changes, their drummer changes, their singer's name and gender orientation changes, but they're still true to my memory of Against Me! almost six years later.
The Cult played to a full theater, whose front row audience instantly aged 20 years. Instead of the plaid button-up shirt with hipster glasses, new onlookers with mesh tops and devil-horn headbands were now clamoring for the prime spots up front. A ominous shaman figure was projected on the stage's backdrop while the soundcheck ran on for almost an hour. When the group came on stage, I was instantly struck by the abundance of black leather. Singer Ian Astbury also doesn't speak British anymore (many years of Britpop music knowledge has taught me to disregard any political correctness with those blokes). New songs and old songs were freely distributed in the Cult's set. For instance, one sample of a few consecutive songs they played included a songs from 2000, 1985, and 2012 ("Li'l Devil" from Electric, "(Here Comes)The Rain" from Love, and "Lucifer" from Choice of Weapon. At one point, Astbury commented that Denver's love affair with marijuana made the city more like a "Bangkok brothel". Astbury has almost 30 years worth of songs under his belt with The Cult, and his success has afforded him the opportunity to make such claims.