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Sound Grenade

by Archives January 20, 2009

I recently came across this quote by Against Me! (www.againstme.net) singer/guitarist Tom Gabel from an April 2007 Racket Magazine interview I found pretty damn funny:
“So, okay . . . when we started out as a band . . . NO ONE fucking liked us. (Laughs) No one! Our first year of shows was just like us showing up, me and Kevin, and unloading my acoustic guitar, and Kevin unloading his drums; which was like this weird homemade kit, and people were like “What the fuck is this?” and making fun of us.
No one liked us at first, and now there’s all these people saying “I’ve loved you since (Vivida Vis).” No, you didn’t. No one liked us when (Vivida Vis) was around. I was there at the shows! There were TEN people there, what are you talking about? I know you weren’t there.”
NOTE: Vivida Vis was the title of the band’s poorly recorded (and I mean REALLY poorly recorded) first demo.
For those of you unfamiliar with seemingly EVERYONE’S favourite band circa 2007, Against Me! began as a humble solo act (Tom Gabel at first, followed shortly by the addition of drummer Kevin Mahon) in the sprawling metropolis of Gainesville, Florida in 1997 with their own brand of sloppy, acoustic folk punk. After that it’s the typical story of “band starts out performing in basements, expands, solidifies their sound (in this case catchy, politically-tinged punk rock), becomes noticed and signed to an established independent label for a few years before moving on to a major label and alienating half of their fans, but replacing them tenfold in the process.”
Their growth over the past six years, both musically and commercially, has been nothing short of astounding. As they enter the studio to record their fifth album, to be released later this year, I’m willing to bet a LOT more people are going to be anticipating said album than those who anticipated their last release, 2007’s New Wave. However it’s this growth that ultimately attracted so many of the delightful folks described by Tom in that interview.
I’ve encountered people like this before (and, as long as we’re being honest, have BEEN people like this on certain occasions as well), but I never really considered the implications of this apparent “superfandom.” Just to give this a little bit of context, I’m sure all of you have discovered a band through what you would later find out is not their first release. You then, sometimes obsessively, collected their entire back catalog and eventually decided you’ve been a fan since their first record, right?
Now this is a perfectly common and relatively forgivable stance to take. It’s entirely possible that upon listening to the band’s older stuff you find you like it more than the material that introduced you to the band, but that still doesn’t change the fact you discovered the band when you did, therefore you can only have liked the band since THAT point in time.
There’s no shame in showing up to the party a little late – I only discovered Against Me! with their second full length, As the Eternal Cowboy, in 2003.You can like their old stuff just fine, but there’s no need to say you’ve liked them since the very beginning if you clearly didn’t.
Or is there?
I thought about it for a little while and I realized there’s an unwritten rule within the punk community, possibly within other music scenes as well, basically stating that a certain amount of credibility can be earned for “being there from the beginning.” In fact, I would go so far as to say the ONLY way to achieve ANY credibility within certain circles is to have been there from the start, since apparently listening to a band for 10 years makes you smarter, faster AND more attractive.
In cult classic film High Fidelity, John Cusack’s character negatively equates himself to someone “who shaved their head and said they were ALWAYS punk,” but what I’m starting to realize is that there really is no way to be considered “punk” AT ALL, unless you were always punk, or pretended you were at least. This seems like a pretty concrete and in some cases crippling social mandate from a group claiming to be against rules and social mandates, doesn’t it? Oh well, the rest of us still have the music, and isn’t that the point anyway?

Josh Mocle is against YOU (deal with it). You can catch him spinning the best in new and newish Folk, Punk and Indie Rock on The Kids Are So-So, every Thursday between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Concordia’s own CJLO Radio, 1690 on your AM dial and streaming live at cjlo.com.

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