Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers - Live in Denver (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers

Live in Denver (2019)

live show

I’ve seen Against Me! live more times than I can count at this point, so the prospect of getting to see Laura Jane Grace in a different context with her new side project was pretty enticing. I went with my best friend, let’s call her Cici, and “the guy she’s seeing” (I’m forbidden from calling him the “b word” at my own peril). The guy she’s seeing bought his ticket at the very last minute when he originally had only planned to meet us up for drinks before the show. I’m used to going to shows alone, and I absolutely hate it, so having a whole crew for once felt pretty nice.

The first band, Control Top, I have to admit I didn’t pay that much attention to. They reminded me a bit of The Coathangers, but that’s all I can remember of them. However, Cici said she really, really enjoyed them, so Control Top gets her seal of approval. The second band was called Mercy Union and, I have a confession to make: I was sent an advanced copy of Mercy Union’s album a few months back and I never got around to reviewing it. It was very Lucero-esque, a mix of punk, country, and a little bit of Springsteen, which is good but not entirely my thing, apart from this really cool part on the opening track where they randomly break into the chorus of Rancid’s “As Wicked.” Their live show was a bit more impressive than their album, though, and I really thought they were a good fit to play with Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers with their roots rock style.

The actual Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers set was a strange hodgepodge. I knew that their new album, Bought to Rot, was likely not long enough to fill up an entire set, so I wondered if she might play some of the songs from her first solo album, Heart Burns, that was released under her deadname. Well, she did play some songs off of Heart Burns…and a whole lot more. The set was a combination of songs from Bought to Rot, a few songs from Heart Burns, two Mountain Goats covers (neither of which were the song that she performed for the Mountain Goats tribute album), a cover of The Replacements’ “Androgynous” (you can also find her on YouTube covering that song with Joan Jett and Miley Cyrus), a cover of Camper Van Beethoven’s “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” and a number of Against Me! songs.

It made for a very interesting set, as the Against Me! songs she chose were generally the softer, quieter songs like “Two Coffins” and “Ache With Me” (the latter of which she commented, both at this show and at her two-night Against Me! show back in October, that “the punks hate this one”) which fit in with her Devouring Mothers material more than, say, “Thrash Unreal” would. The Devouring Mothers’ songs, on the other hand, were played with a bit more power, distortion, and energy than they were on Bought to Rot. Even the Mountain Goats covers were punked up a little, and The Replacements cover, which was played with mostly just a solo piano on the original album, was given a fuller sound by Laura and the Devouring Mothers. The final result was that this potpourri of songs somehow all meshed together perfectly. It was actually better than some of the times I’ve seen Against Me! live.

Oh, and did I mention that she dedicated the whole show to Brittney Strummer at the top of the set? Maybe that’s part of the reason why Laura played her heart out. It was definitely a worthy set to be honored with.