“I’ve performed at big arenas, I’ve played Wembley Stadium. I sang on stage with Cyndi Lauper, written songs with Weezer. I’ve been on stage with Joan Jett. And nothing compares to this,” said Laura Jane Grace, the singer-songwriter known best for founding punk group Against Me!, mid-set atop the parking lot at Four Seasons Landscaping on Saturday. “I draw a bigger crowd than Rudy Giuliani, and I have more Twitter followers than Donald Trump,” she declared to a sea of eager smiles, “which isn’t fucking so bad for a transgender high school dropout.”
The makeshift stage at Four Seasons was flanked by plants, and just big enough to fit a couple amps, monitors and a drum machine with some walking room left over. The atmosphere was giddy, almost carnival-like, with a setup à-la Punk Rock Flea Market. A cut-out of Rudy Giuliani stood next to a podium. Stands were set up for purchasing pretzels and local craft beer, which sat in cans with custom-made graphics celebrating the momentous occasion. Merch tables for both Total Landscaping and Laura Jane Grace saw lines ten punks deep. For this wasn’t merely your average day acoustic set. It was a celebration.
Chicago-based Brendan Kelly warmed up the crowd with an acoustic set of his own as fans sifted throughout the lot and over next door to catch glimpses of the famed crematorium and porn shop, dubbed Fantasy Island. “I thought this was a hotel,” Kelly giggled into the mic. “What the fuck.” Laughter from the crowd. The whole thing did smell of a fever dream, and I personally couldn’t help but wonder what strange shit in the air had ultimately led us down the timeline where this show was actually happening. To give credit where credit is due, it was Kelly’s idea to do the show at Total Landscaping, according to a tweet from Grace.
Grace was determined to rid all bad juju from the most infamous landscaping service in America, aka ground zero of the Trump campaign’s transition from public menace into toxic farce. For the uninitiated, the venue was the site of a surreal press conference led by Rudy Giuliani, former personal attorney for Donald Trump, four days after the election. A full explanation as to why this venue was selected in the first place remains in the wind, but it screams “somebody fucked up.” The presser was laden with falsehoods and fantastical rhetoric pushing conspiracies about voter fraud in the presidential race, embodying the last-ditch, flop-sweat desperation of the Trump campaign in its failed attempt to overturn a free and fair election banana republic-style.
During songs about embodying your insecurities and the disorienting journey of self-discovery to an unreleased song simply named “All Fucked Out,” Grace’s powerful voice swept over the crowd, her candid lyrics both poignant and full of elation. Fans shouted along to Against Me! classics such as “Black Me Out” and “Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong,” which were mixed in between tunes of her own. The performance was a spiritual and energetic cleansing, the antithesis of everything that put this unassuming business in the industrial Northeast on the map to begin with. It was pure, and it was punk. — DYLAN JARED LONG