There was a five- or six- year period where I didn't miss a single Against Me! show whenever they were in town.
Since moving back to Metro Detroit, I have missed them the last two times they've been in the area. I was scheduled to work during the Saturday tour date in Lansing, so I desperately asked around for friends who were willing to drive to Cleveland or Toledo with me for their shows there. I feared that I would miss them again.
I started to hear rumors Tuesday of a secret show Thursday at the Trumbullplex in Woodbridge, one that couldn't be advertised because it wasn't sanctioned by the record label. If word were to get out, the rumors alleged, the show would be canceled.
The rumors were true.
I've seen Against Me! in arenas, clubs, theaters and bars, but I've never seen them in such a small and intimate space. I went with friends I have known since the seventh grade, adding to the feeling that this was something we would have done ourselves when I was younger. It didn't feel like seeing a popular rock band, it felt like a basement show with friends.
I spoke with Laura Jane Grace briefly outside the venue, and by spoke, I mean I stammered and said one-word sentences.
The band knew their audience, and outside of the encore, they didn't play any songs that came out after "Searching for a Former Clarity."
In the nearly 60 years since ? and the Mysterians came out of the Bay Area, Michigan is still producing phenomenal punk rock groups. The opening bands, Baggage and WOMB, played passionately, loudly and sensationally.
At one point, I collapsed in the mosh pit and strangers helped me back up. When others held their cameras or phones up, members of the crowd parted or would create a barrier to make sure the person taking the photo could keep stable enough to get a shot. The crowd helped each other and added a feeling of community and friendship among strangers.
I wrongfully assumed I couldn't take my camera into the venue and could only take photos with my phone.
Against Me!'s secret Detroit show was eye-opening. In an age where I now have to worry about mortgage payments, if I successfully switched the water bill to my name and if I have enough of my dog's preventative medicine to last to the next vet visit, this concert reminded me why I fell in love with punk in the first place. I was reminded of being a weird 11-year-old in rural Michigan discovering punk rock for the first time and realizing there's so much more to the world outside of the bottling plant, watching the Red Wings or going to the U.P. to see grandma.
For the first time since moving back to Michigan, I felt like I was home.