Against Me! / Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - live in Sayreville (Cover Artwork)

Against Me! / Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

live in Sayreville (2008)

live show

As Ted Leo and the Pharmacists played their first few songs, a strange feeling seemed to swim over the crowd: indifference. I know indie rock crowds are generally too cool to dance, but it seemed like very few were singing along, and the "pit" consisted of four girls lightly skanking -- roughly, the moshing equivalent to the "golf clap." The two kids in the front dancing ended up getting kicked out for...dancing too close to people who didn't want to dance? The venue was only about one-third its capacity, and I wondered if we've come so far that TL/Rx and AM! fans don't overlap. Maybe Ted Leo fans don't want to pay $35 including Ticketmaster charges to see him play for 45 minutes.

None of this should matter, and normally I wouldn't mind, but it seemed to have affected the band's performance. Ted Leo poured his heart out having some cute banter with the crowd, and they created a sweat, but overall seemed tired and a little uninvolved. There seemed to constantly be something wrong with the drums, causing drummer Chris Wilson to be incessantly fidgeting with his set and missing beats. They didn't even care to all walk off stage during the classic "Timorous Me," making three grown men standing (or sitting) awkwardly a little unsettling.

To be fair, they were "on" for a nice portion of the set, sweeping across a blazing "Heart Problems," the great new song "The Mighty Sparrow" and the pulsating "Counting Down the Hours." James Canty is great as their second guitarist, a very talented guy who's not afraid to jump around, and their new bassist seems to be a little less shy since the last time I saw them. Nixing "Me & Mia" from the set, they closed with a cover of the Misfits "Hybrid Moments," a song no one in the crowd seemed to know. At the very least, New Jersey crowds usually uproar when their very own Misfits have a song being played. And hey, isn't Ted Leo from NJ? While I had a good time, I doubt they won over any new fans, and I think I'll only buy tickets to go see them if they're headliners.

Set list:

  1. The Sons of Cain
  2. Heart Problems
  3. Mourning in America
  4. Army Bound
  5. new song (The Mighty Sparrow)
  6. Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?
  7. Counting Down the Hours
  8. Little Dawn
  9. new song (Where Was My Brain?)
  10. Who Do You Love?
  11. Timorous Me
  12. Walking to Do
  13. Hybrid Moments (Misfits cover)
Against Me! came on to a three-fourths-capacity crowd and (spoiler alert) killed. Slaughtered, maimed, raped, pillaged, plundered. You probably have seen them live before; you know the drill. No-nonsense playing, professional, yet not mechanical. The slightly slower "Cliché Guevara" AM! opened the set with was a fetching change and, technically, they never stopped since a guitar part or drum beat would link all the songs to each other before the encore. Comically, Andrew and Tom poured water into each other's mouth in between many songs, as one of them seemed to have always been on Song Bridge Duty.

Like what they did at many Warped shows this year, they sped through a Reinventing Axl Rose block in the middle of the set, much to the happiness of all the guys in flannel shirts. I enjoyed how they tried out two songs recorded with horns bare: "Miami" (didn't need the horns) and "The Disco Before the Breakdown" (would have benefitted from the horns). I was happy/surprised to hear the latter song live for the first time, and "Pretty Girls" was a fantastic addition as well, buzzing along with sheer precision; where was this when you were playing "Animal" and "Ocean" in 2007? The only weak cut performed was "Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart"; in theory it sounds like a good idea to change the pace with a slower song, but really just drags boringly.

As Tom came out alone for the encore, he went to go into "Amputations" and the mic gave some atrocious feedback during the first line. He stopped playing and gave the sound guy the Tom Gabel Death Stare saying, "The monitors have been giving me feedback all fucking night!" As he tried to start the song again, clapping began, making him stop the song saying "Look, if you're going to clap, you'll have to clap in time so I don't mess up." Again, the song started, more clapping again, and he stopped, again, noticeably laughing saying, "No, no, I meant in time with the song, not each other," and proceeded to stomp to the beat he wanted to us to clap to, and finally executed the song. This was all rather funny, but I wouldn't be surprised if people thought he was pissed omg table style.

Like all good bands, Against Me! decided to save the undeniable climax for their last song: "We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules)." By the a capella chorus towards the end of the song, the beloved Warren Oakes came to the front of the stage to sing with his bandmates to sing, while what seemed to be a very young fan came from backstage to play the last full band chorus on drums. Any tiredness felt by the audience was gone at this point, blasts being had as a fittingly passionate and sloppy version raged on, for the punx.

Set list:
  1. Cliché Guevara
  2. New Wave
  3. White People for Peace
  4. Stop!
  5. Pints of Guinness Make You Strong
  6. Reinventing Axl Rose
  7. Those Anarcho Punx Are Mysterious
  8. Walking Is Still Honest
  9. Miami
  10. From Her Lips to God's Ears (The Energizer)
  11. Americans Abroad
  12. Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart
  13. T.S.R.
  14. Pretty Girls (The Mover)
  15. Don't Lose Touch
  16. Thrash Unreal
  17. Amputations
  18. The Disco Before the Breakdown
  19. Sink, Florida, Sink
  20. We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules)