Even when they don’t hit the right note or they miss a beat, Against Me! powers through each of their shows with an energy that is genuine, honest, and purely punk. Whether you’re in the very front row being pushed up against the barricade or bobbing your head around in the back trying to catch a glimpse of the action on the stage, Against Me!’s presence is powerful and real, and definitely worth seeing in person.
However, if you’re not one of the lucky fans that have had the opportunity to see the band live, or you are and you just want to relive your Against Me! show experience again and again, then 23 Live Sex Acts, the band’s recently released live album, is for you. Listening to 23 Live Sex Acts, fans are treated to the experience of going to an Against Me! show without really going to an Against Me! show. As the name implies, the album covers 23 different songs all in a live setting. You get to hear Laura Jane Grace’s rambling between songs about how grateful she is that people come out to see them, and the audience’s chants and cheers when the setlist gets really, really good.
23 Live Sex Acts displays aspects of Against Me!’s performance, such as guitarist James Bowman’s super on point background vocals, and drummer Atom Willard’s precise rhythm, that you wouldn’t normally pick up on from studio recordings. The album begins with “FUCK MY LIFE 666” (off of Transgender Dysphoria Blues), then “Pints of Guinness Makes You Stronger”, followed by “Cliche Guevara”. Essentially the rest of the album is pretty similar, with a good mixture of greatest hits, throwbacks, and new additions. The band strategically maneuvers amongst their discography to create a set list that is never dull or lack-luster.
Naturally, just like the shows, the “sing-a-long” songs are the most exciting part of 23 Live Sex Acts. There’s certain songs that any Against Me! fan looks forward to hearing, especially live. “Miami” (fucking Miami!), “Thrash Unreal”, “Teenage Anarchist”, and, of course, “Sink, Florida, Sink” are just a few of the band’s more popular tracks that translate well on the live album. It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the band every time they’ve come through your hometown or if it’s your first show, when these songs play, the crowd goes wild. The album captures this excitement perfectly, with the crowd clapping and yelling back at Laura as she and the rest of the band effortlessly play each song.
Aside from those songs, another stand out track on the album is “New Wave.” During this Against Me! fan-favorite, Laura calls out a security guard for trying to throw someone out of the show, and says “don’t be a bummer security guard, he’s just dancing,” while the band continues to play. Then, completely pausing the song, yells “hey, hey, don’t kick that fucking kid out, let him stay. Let him fucking stay,” as the crowd chants “Let him stay” in the background. One last time, Laura says to the guard “Hey, fucking asshole, if he leaves you have to get up here and play the guitar.” This gets a huge applause from the crowd, then James and Laura joke around a bit about how nobody at the show is allowed to have a good time, until they decide the song is a bust and just move on to playing “Walking Is Still Honest”.
Other than the entire visual element of actually seeing the band in person and getting the chance to hang out with some of the nicest and coolest people in a crowd you’ll ever meet, the only significant difference between the live album and, well, a live show is the lack of an opener. But if that’s really that big of a deal, then just pop on some Gaslight Anthem or Frank Iero and The Celebration (both of which Against Me! has toured with in the last year) before hand, and you’re good to go. Somehow, Against Me! manages to take the experience of going to their show and translate it into an album that is both memorable and fun.
Basically, you get to experience an awesome punk show in the comfort of your home, car, garage, whatever. Despite the fact that every single Against Me! fan is probably desperately yearning for a new album with new songs at this point, 23 Live Sex Acts is a great record that is sure to keep fans happy and satisfied until then.