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Review: the music of ‘Against Me!’

An indeterminate haze – like the fog from which the sold-out audience emerged – clung to the ceiling of the State Theater Saturday night when Gainesville punk band Against Me! performed in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

The set, which opened with the song “New Wave,” covered few other songs from the band’s album in 2007 of the same title. Although the songs on the album sound somewhat inferior to similarly successful artists like Jawbreaker and The Replacements, the songs seemed slightly more urgent in a live setting – inside a wave of attendees’ raised fists.

The band also played two tracks from their upcoming album “White Crosses,” which is set to release soon, according to billboard.com.

Front man Tom Gabel created the band in 1997 by playing acoustic punk songs in Gainesville Laundromats. Not until ten years later did the act became popular enough to play the Next Big Thing and various talk shows.

While some things have remained the same since the beginning – the black sweaty shirts and singing straight into the next song instead of bantering – some things were different.

Amicable red-bearded drummer Warren Oakes split from the band last June and has since been replaced by Hot Water Music drummer George Rebelo. Luckily, Rebelo’s experience with the other popular Gainesville punk outfit allowed him to nail Oakes’ forceful, convicted style drumbeats with ease.

Against Me! performed their best Saturday when playing songs from their classic record “Reinventing Axl Rose,” which covers a spectrum of sounds from hoarse, desperate screaming in “The Politics of Starving” to the lullaby-like solemnity of “8 Full Hours of Sleep.” Other tracks performed were “Pints of Guinness Still Make You Strong” and “I Still Love You Julie.”

The biggest surprise of the night came when the band launched into back-to-back renditions of “The Disco Before the Breakdown” and “Tonight We’re Gonna Give It 35%” – songs from their 2002 “Disco Before the Breakdown” EP – since these are not as mainstream as other songs from their live show catalog.

Against Me! assembled an interesting assortment of opening acts as well.

Ninja Gun played a brand of unpretentious country-rock with song titles like “Darwin was a Baptist.” In his thick southern Georgia accent, singer Johnathan Coody mused about his band’s “frumpiness” and dispensed Fun Dip packets to the crowd in between songs.

Tim Barry, the former singer of Richmond punk band Avail, also opened for the headliners. His candid joking proved the greatest treat for the audience. In between his stripped-down acoustic guitar songs, Barry swore constantly, disparaged college and praised trains.

The show offered attendees the chance to see these unsung, out-of-state artists before headlining one of Florida’s greatest grassroots bands.