Laura Jane Grace Brought Sweat and Energy to Ottawa

Brass Monkey, May 18

With Pigeon Pit and Excuses Excuses

Photo: Ming Wu

BY Daniel SylvesterPublished May 20, 2024

After playing the 1,000-person capacity Bronson Centre in 2022, Laura Jane Grace returned to the nation's capital for an intimate performance at the Brass Monkey. Situated far outside the city's core, the poolhall/concert venue's mini-mall locale didn't stop fans from making the pilgrimage to see one of punk's most beloved troubadours.

A last-minute replacement for opener Sam Russo, Oshawa, ON's Excuses Excuses filled the lead-off spot like old pros, leaning into the growing crowd for a set of confident, sleek punk rock that pleased the Against Me! fans in attendance.  

Along the ride for Grace's tour through Ontario cities like Orilla and Sudbury, Pigeon Pit presented their distinctive folk-punk set during their debut Ottawa performance. Stripped down to just pedal steel, bass, drums, guitar and vocals, the Olympia, WA band captivated the room as frontperson Lomes Oleander paid respect to the "beautiful trans people" in the audience.

With the performance area now packed tight thanks to a sold-out, 400-person crowd, Grace and her live band, the Mississippi Medicals, took to the stage. Featuring Worriers drummer Mikey Erg, Halifax/Ottawa musician Matty Grace (no relation) on bass, and actress (and Grace's partner) Paris Campbell Grace on backing vocals, the quartet launched into the title track of Grace's 2024 LP Hole in My Head.

Reaching to the beginning of her career, Grace had the crowd wildly shouting back every lyric of Against Me!'s "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong." With the crowd's energy already at a maximum level by the second song, the blistering "I'm Not a Cop" and "Punk Rock in Basements" as well as Against Me!-era favourites "Baby, I'm an Anarchist!" and "True Trans Soul Rebel" had the dance floor bouncing and crashing in unison.

With uninhibited co-vocals from Paris, Laura Jane was able to transform "Don't Lose Touch," "Mercenary" and their cover of the Replacements' "Androgynous" (originally recorded with Joan Jett and Miley Cyrus) into singalong anthems. This exposed the tracks' driving melodies and allowed Grace to share a mic with the other Graces for exuberant Springsteen-like posturing.

As the temperature in the club began to rise with the apropos set closer, Against Me!'s "Black Me Out," sweat began to noticeably drip off all four musician's faces. Looking exhausted, spent and drenched after an almost impossibly intense 40-minute set, Grace returned for an impromptu all-request encore as her bandmates rehydrated offstage.

Gripping her electric guitar, Grace whipped through Against Me! deep cuts "Untitled (Armageddon)" and "Tonight We're Gonna Give It 35%," while a brave concertgoer surfed above the crowd.

Closing the sweltering performance with "Cuffing Season," which she said she was playing only because she "had the breath for it," and "Two Coffins," Grace looked blown away by the wild, undying enthusiasm brought forth by the crowd — who proved to be just as responsible for the evening's unbridled energy as Grace and her band.

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