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Laura Jane Grace emerges patient, methodical and eager

The Emmy-nominated artist, author, activist and punk musician plays a Oct. 23 show at Badger State Brewing Company on the heels of her new EP “At War With The Silverfish”

By John McCracken

Laura Jane Grace is familiar with cancelled or changed shows in a post-quarantine live music industry. Isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic fueled her debut-album as a solo artist “Stay Alive” and a seven-song EP “At War With The Silver Fish” released in September 2021. Photo courtesy of Chris Bauer photography

Laura Jane Grace slowly started playing shows again in August. A one-time club show here, a bar show there. This sporadic schedule seems to be typical in the post-quarantine live music industry.

She continues this trajectory with an intimate performance at Badger State Brewing Company (990 Tony Canadeo Run) on Saturday, Oct. 23 alongside Minneapolis, MN post-punk outfit Partial Traces and Appleton acoustic-punk songwriter Walt Hamburger.

“It’s tough to balance between wanting to be out there playing shows,” Grace said, “but also not wanting to be overzealous and book something that ends up getting cancelled.”

Cancelled shows is something Grace, the Emmy-nominated artist, author, activist and musician who carved her path playing in Florida punk band Against Me!, is familiar with since live music imploded in early 2020.

Grace said when everything shut down, she just took time to keep writing and recording. That isolation fueled her debut-album as a solo artist “Stay Alive” and a seven-song EP “At War With The Silver Fish” released in September of this year.

The seven-song EP is stripped-down and fierce. Grace leaned into her folk-punk roots on the song “Three of Hearts,” toyed with indie and alternative rock on the ode to old friends “Electro-Static Sweep,” and featured jangling chords, catchy choruses and four on the floor stomping on the song “Lolo 13.” The EP was recorded between her Chicago home-studio and the St. Louis, MO Electric Eel studio.

Focusing inward during lockdowns was a tough task for Grace, someone who has been on the road since her late teens.

“So much of living as a touring musician, and so much just for everybody in this day and age, is having these relationships and connections with people who aren’t in the room with you,” Grace said. “For me, I have friends, but my friends are spread all over the world. I don’t really have a community or friends here in Chicago because I’m usually on tour and when I’m not, I’m at home and I’m a parent. I don’t go out, hang out.”

Grace said she eventually found a good groove being at home, but the unknown nature of the industry’s future and her ongoing desire to create led to both solo-artists releases because she reached a moment where she quite literally had to get the music out.

“If I get to the point where I’m sitting on like 30 songs and I haven’t released any of them,” Grace said. “I can’t write anymore. I just need to get a couple of them out and then make room for more to come in.”

In her off time, Grace has been half-jokingly, half-completely-seriously scheming a reunion for an iconic late 1990s ska-punk band.

On Sept. 13, Grace launched an online petition to reunite Operation Ivy, the Berkeley based ska-band, progenitor to Rancid and crafters of the 1989 cult album “Energy.” The petition was launched ahead of this year’s Riot Fest in Chicago, but the reunion has not come to fruition as of yet. The online petition received over 10,000 signatures in just a few weeks.

Grace said the push was something that she would see as special to her generation of musicians who grew up listening to the late 80s and early 90s punk, as well as one of the positives things social media can produce.

“(Operation Ivy) were this weird bridge band that the punks loved—we’re talking high school days—but then also your vaguely jockey friends, they have that CD in their Honda Civic too,” Grace said.

Grace said the push for the reunion was also based on the fact that Operation Ivy’s music is fun and something needed for the times.

“Its fun music that you can dance to,” Grace said, “and we’ve all just gone through this really shitty trying time where I don’t want more of this shit that is just grinding me down.”

Grace said she is excited to play a handful of shows in the coming months and coming to Green Bay holds a special place in her music memory. She said recording albums with Butch Vig—famed Madison punk musician, Garbage drummer, producer of Nirvana’s iconic “Nevermind” album and Green Bay Packers fight song creator—instilled a love of all things Packers, despite her current Chicago home and Florida roots.

Grace ended the conversation with a stern “Go Pack Go.”

John McCracken is the Editor of Green Bay City Pages. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jmcjmc451.

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