Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers played at Scoot Inn Thursday night, the second in a jam-packed lineup looking forward (The Beths) and back (The Get Up Kids).
Having never really dug into the music of Against Me! (Grace's previous band), I was blind on what to expect from Grace and company. But given the nostalgic headliner and assumptions I had based off the Against Me! name, I readied myself for an assault of screamo or angsty teenage punk. This was reinforced by Grace and the two other members of the band appearing on stage in all black. (Please don’t @ me about the inaccuracy of my original ignorant assessment. Yes, I realize I'm the worst. Also, spoiler: I liked it a lot.)
But with a half moon and the stars peeking through the black overhead at the still somehow almost-sort-of-away-from-the-downtown-lights Scoot Inn, what I witnessed was a thoughtful, invigorating set of punk and driving rock — one that was sometimes serious, like on “Manic Depression,” and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, like on “I Hate Chicago.”
“We drove like two days from Chicago to get here… We're from Chicago, which is a city I have very specific feelings about,” Grace said introducing the hilarious, cathartic take-down of the Windy City. “I couldn't give a [expletive] about the Pumpkins, Slint or Wilco. Learn to make a pizza you [expletive-ing expletives],” she sings. It’s more blunt and boisterous than its anti-hometown anthem brethren— looking at you Gil Scott-Heron’s “New York Is Killing Me” and LCD Soundsystem’s “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.”
Grace’s punk pedigree shines through but without any baggage and world-is-against-me woe. It was more brainy punk than overly emotional rock; more The Mountain Goats than Senses Fail. And like The Mountain Goats, things could quickly go from heady to head-banging when Grace got intense, like on “Amsterdam Hotel Room” with its paranoid, Enon-like opening guitar riff leading into the details of an extended freak out abroad.
Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers play three more shows Friday at SXSW 2019, including an acoustic show at Central Presbyterian Church.