There have been a number of festivals copping (well deserved) flack for programming entire lineups that omit one half of the gender spectrum. Those organisers would do well to attend a night like this: a full set of female-identifying musos at the height of their powers.

Even more exciting was the strength of our local representatives. Mere Women showcased their post-punk prowess with a set aspiring to Savages, stronger than ever with bassist Trisch Roberts in place. Unquestionably the most structurally experimental band of the night, their abrasive, tempo-shifting grooves proved equally danceable.

They had an attentive audience, certainly, but there was a palpable shift in the room when Melbourne’s Camp Cope took to the stage. Georgia ‘Maq’ McDonald still can’t quite believe it when her audience knows every single one of her lyrics; after every song, she giggled with disbelief at the rapturous applause. Bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich distinguished herself as the melodic backbone of the band, but as always, it’s Maq’s emotional delivery that carries them. This band is a generational phenomenon, and their fans are already doing everything they can to lift them up.

The audience for Against Me! has changed dramatically over the years, but the full spectrum was present for Thursday’s gig – the anarchists, the queers, and the trans punters finally finding somewhere they could feel safe, liberated and proud. Firebrand frontwoman Laura Jane Grace is a beacon to all of them; despite years of shifting loyalties, she inspires the teenage anarchists and the true trans soul rebels alike.

Whatever your history with Against Me!, now is the time to seek them out.

Against Me! are conscious of their changes, too, and serve some love to the fans of yesteryear in the shape of Eternal Cowboy and Reinventing Axl Rose cuts that still stand up as powerful punk adrenaline boosts. ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’, the perennial anthem, had a more roiling mosh than usual, but the fans were mostly loving – they shoved, they crowd-surfed and they roared, but there was little of the hostility drunken punters often bring to a heavy gig. Security contributed with uncanny docility; props to them for facilitating such a joyous environment.

Unexpectedly, the band pulled a few covers out of nowhere, with Grace covering The Mountain Goats’ ‘Best Ever Death Metal In Denton’ as a solo encore (perfectly mimicking John Darnielle) and Camp Cope’s Maq joining in on The Replacements’ ‘Androgynous’. As she sang with Grace, Maq’s face shone – in the abandon of her dancing, we could glimpse this young woman’s dreams becoming reality in front of us.

Whatever your history with Against Me!, now is the time to seek them out. They are powerfully connected to every moment of their past and future, and have surrounded themselves with the finest female-identifying musicians in the industry. God bless their transsexual heart.

Against Me! played Manning Bar on Thursday May 11.

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