I WAS THERE . . . Tom Gabel @ Knitting Factory 11.21.08

“We haven’t played together in 7 years, and we haven’t practiced in 7 years,” said Against Me! vocalist Tom Gabel. “But we’re going to do this anyway, we’re Against Me!” he shouted as Gabel introduced original drummer Kevin Mahon to the stage. At that moment what had been a low key acoustic event transformed into an all out pit, stretching from the stage to the back door of the Knitting Factory’s main space.

The event was the New York date on Against Me! front man Tom Gabel’s solo tour. The Knitting Factory had been the band’s (in all it’s carnation’s) home in New York for years, and you could tell his and all who displayed remorse at the impending move of the storied venue from its 3-floor Leonard St. digs, which it has occupied for more then a decade, was sincere.

The show started out with a set by Philadelphia-based Erik Peterson, of Mischief Brew. Peterson quickly blew through 7-8 songs of Mischief Brew/solo material opening the show with his typical high-energy style. I have said many times and it bears repeating, no one can work the crowd the way Peterson does with just a guitar, it’s pretty amazing.

Peterson was followed by a set from New York Native Emilyn Brodsky, playing material off her first full length Emilyn Brodsky’s Greatest Tits. Brodsky usually just performs on her own with a ukulele. I’ve never seen her play anywhere near as big a venue as the main space, so seeing her in such a big room was very weird. Typically, she plays to fairly intimate crowds and half-jokingly bullies them into being quiet during her sets though was unable to manage this and gave up on that pretty early on. Brodsky got herself into some trouble early by suggesting that someone should dive from the room’s balcony. This clearly earned her some sort of scolding from the soundman, which promptly made him the butt of much of her on stage banter for the duration of her set. Many statements ended in “because the soundman doesn’t like me,” or “because the soundman’s a nice guy.” Furthering the tension were multiple people running up to the balcony after her suggestion, though they either were convinced or forced not to jump.

After the close of Ms. Brodsky’s set, Tom Gabel took the stage to massive cheers from the sold out crowd. He started with 4-6 original songs off his recently released solo album, which can be heard on his Myspace page. Then began to play a few classic Against Me! demo’s and then Kevin Mahon; his original and at one time only band mate came out. “I want to introduce one of the people I love most in the world. We’re Against Me!” he said as the crowd roared. The original band members, on the same stage for the first time in 7-8 years played through demos and most of the band’s first full length Reinventing Axl Rose. Gabel and Mahon sounded spot on—like it was 2001 once again, and I was in a basement. A really big basement.

A friend put it best “The 13 year old in me was just really happy and now it really wants a beer.” The show allowed me to relive part of my child-hood, and to see two of my favorite current performers. What more could I want from a Thursday night.

TJ Olsen

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