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  • André Rober Beriau

Laura Jane Grace: Up the Punx in Providence, RI

With a self-identified sound being somewhere between Frank Zappa and Fugazi, Cheap City from Holyoke, MA opened up the night at Alchemy in Providence, RI on Tuesday, May 7th. The band filled out the front of the stage descending into the organized chaos that is the hallmark of Cheap City. From the first track, they exploded into a dramatic set ranging from the raw energy of a punk band to the quieter subtleties of jazz performance. While the vocal mix was buried and difficult to hear - the noise of the band’s unique sound filled the 300 cap club as frontperson Clover Nahabedian held up signs with lyrics for sing-along sections and other more political messaging.  


Spooky, dark, and fused with a sense of the occult, the Devil’s Twins raw vocal takes and rockabilly-meets-punk style lit up Alchemy with all the energy of a Ouija Board come to life. Following an explosive opening with Bad Karma and Little Sister, the band kept it rolling with the ambient lullaby rocker of 13 Knives. The Twins hammered out their style to an enthusiastic crowd headed south from their home city of Boston - and the greater Providence area. The set took a genre turn when they covered If You’re Gonna Be Dumb You Gotta Be Tough. While a fun track, and a clear crowd pleaser, it felt more like an after-thought than anything more typically aligned with their own sound.


Kicking off her set alongside the Mississippi Medicals with an ACAB anthem, Laura Jane Grace brought her protest sound to the stage with I’m Not A Cop. Setting the tone for an hour plus set that dove deep into the LJG archives – the audience didn’t hesitate to sing along to the four opening tracks off her latest release, Hole In My Head (February 16th, 2024 - Polyvinyl Record Co.). The driving and catchy anthem of the title track got the crowd moving with a steady melody signature of LJG’s late-model Against Me! anthems. Playing several unreleased tracks including Razorblade Blues, the set launched into the youthful depths of her work with Pints of Guinness…getting everyone in the crowd to belt out the lyrics line-for-line.  


As she wound through her career-spanning set – what stood out most was the positive energy LJG brought to the audience. Smiling between vocals with the enthusiasm of someone who grew up playing punk rock in basements and finally had a decent P.A., it was evident that LJG and band were having a good time. Bassist Bobby Matt Patton of Drive-By Truckers fame maintained a smirk from first to last song, finding the groove alongside LJG while passionately playing in his own zone. LJG’s wife Paris Campbell Grace lent her vocal talent to the harmonies bringing a fresh sound to the grittier punk LJG has defined for more than two decades. It would not be hyperbole to say this set was one of – if not – the best LJG set in recent years – not to mention just how happy she seemed on stage - and connecting with fans before and after her set. As the tour continues through the U.S. and Canada, it’s great to see LJG is in a good place – and making meaningful music that still resonates.


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