Laura Jane Grace brings a lifetime of experiences to a stripped-down tour - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Laura Jane Grace | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Laura Jane Grace, best known as the guitarist/vocalist of Florida punks Against Me!, has been an avid journal keeper. Her earliest journals date back to age 7 or 8, and since then, she’s forged a powerful career in punk rock and activism. Now, she’s preparing a book based on her long history of journaling, and, like anyone who’s sat writing in front of a computer screen for a few hours (or years), she needs to step away.

“I’ve been working on a book for the last couple of years and kind of getting close to finishing it—hopefully it’ll be out later this year,” Grace says. “About a year ago, I was just, like, losing my mind from sitting in front of a computer screen writing, and I wanted to try to work some of [the book’s content] out in a live context.”

Grace (along with Against Me! drummer Atom Willard and manager Marc Hudson) is playing a series of stripped-down shows as Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers. She says her show at the First Unitarian Church on Saturday will be full of music, stories and readings from her book.

“The basis of the book I’ve been working on is tour journals for the past 20+ years or so,” she says. “And so, kind of using the songs mixed with the book’s journals and stuff like that to kind of shape a narrative for the live shows was kind of the idea, and then having a looseness to it could be adaptable each night, depending on the context of the venue or the crowd or whatever happened.”

Grace and Willard did a few shows like this last year in L.A., New York and Las Vegas, and she says it helped her writing.

“It’s just a really interesting experience because we were kind of just making it up as we go along, which can really challenge you to think on your feet,” she says. “A year later, here we are, kind of going out to do the same thing and have the same experience as that first run, and try to kind of expand the idea.”

She says that fans can look forward to hearing music from her 2008 EP, Heart Burns, and some familiar Against Me! songs.

“It’s funny—that EP came out just as the 2008 presidential election was happening and Obama was going into office,” she says. “Now, coming back 8 years later at the end of that term and playing some of those songs as we go into this next election kind of seems fitting in a way.”

Although she has it billed as an acoustic tour, she doesn’t want to limit herself there. After all, the plan is to not really have too much of a plan.

“It’s a stripped-down, essentially acoustic tour, although I might play electric guitar,” she laughs. “Again, it’s kind of loose, where you’ll have one idea, but then someone else is like, ‘Oh, well what about this idea?’ And you’re like, ‘Yeah!’ It’s just trying to make something happen for the sake of art.”

After sifting through her seemingly endless treasure trove of source material, Grace is not only looking forward to escaping the computer screen, but also seeing the immediate impact of her stories on a live audience.

“Most authors have trouble coming up with material, but I think my problem is that I have too much material,” she says. “Fully transcribed, my journals were over a million and a half words. The process of sitting there and editing glossed my mind, and I was like, ‘This sucks. I want to do this live. I want to read something and feel the immediate reaction from people after I’ve read it, and know how it works in that way.’ So this is kind of a continuation of that.”

Fans of Grace and Against Me! will get an intimate look into her life and career in a musical setting where anything can happen, and we’re glad she’s chosen Philadelphia as a place to share it with us.

And, true to her punk rock roots, she’s glad her show this weekend won’t involve giving away her personal details to any authority. She, of course, was referring to what she called, “that new Draconian law in Philly where musicians have to surrender their names and all that.”

“I would boycott. I wouldn’t do it. It’s such an invasion of privacy. I think that obviously, if that were to happen, there would be an underground that would work around it, but that would be the way to go. I wouldn’t be playing any venue that required it. Unless it was a secret show that was somehow being subversive or usurping that law, [I wouldn’t play.]”

Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers plays a sold-out show at the First Unitarian Church on Saturday, February 13th with David Dondero. She and the band also play World Cafe Live at the Queen on Sunday, February 21st. Tickets are still available, more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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