On the Beat with Atom Willard of Against Me! What to Expect Playing Live (And the Voices in Your Head)

Atom Willard

Hello, MD readers! Not every show goes the way you expect it to go. In fact, very few of them end up going as planned. But most, if not all, turn out to be incredible. You just have to let it happen. I’m going to take you through a normal show where not everything went as predicted but still ended up perfect.

Okay, here we go…

First song. Let’s see how everything sounds. Okay, great, this is pretty good…flow into this first chorus. Damn, did I tighten the clutch with pliers? I think I did. Maybe that was yesterday. Okay, here’s that tricky section/look at the set list for what’s next/big bridge accent, now outro chorus and now finish.

Count in song two. How is this crowd? Hard to see tonight. I think they’re into it. It’s kinda hard to hear the vocal right now. Is my seat loose? God, I love this chorus. Two times through, slight change second round. Settle back for the verse. Are the lights doing something different? No, that’s right. That’s what we talked about last night. Glad the LD understood what I meant! Look at set list, here’s that fun fill, outro, and cymbal choke. Ha! That was cool; I’ll have to do that again tomorrow. I start this one…I love this beat…that feels good—this is going good. Shit, my stool IS loose, dammit. Whatever, I’ll justwhoa, stage dive, ha! They jumped so high, that was awesome. Announce this pre-chorus and pull back a little okayokayokay and loooong roll and explode. Ahhhh, I love that! Advertisement

This damn stool. Okay, here’s the “hello.” Maybe I can tighten it real quick. Where are my pliers? I’ll have to try in the next break. What’s next? Oh, I start this one too. Okay, hurry up…take a breath. Start. Make every single person feel: THIS. 

Hahahaha. That’s so fun. Hey, I know them! They come to so many shows. Wait, do they live near here? Launch into chorus—ahhh!! I can hear everyone singing!!! So good!!! Hey, what if I try this here…ah, that kinda works, I can do better tomorrow.

Atom Willard

Man, this is a great crowd. Yeah, this room is great, looks really full, what was the presale number? It seemed good. This stool is definitely too loose, wait, what are you saying to me? Go longer in this section? Okay, got it. Oh, this is cool—hold here, loop it, not yet, not yet. Okay let’s go announce the chorus and bam! Ah! They all came with me on that!!! I love the improv stuff. Advertisement

Broken stick, grab a new one, push a little into the bridge. Did anyone notice I missed that hi-hat hit? Nah, I’m okay. Damn, I will not forget to tighten the stool tomorrow.

Man, that dinner was great, whoa, look at this girl on stage! Okay, she’s jumping out. What the hell was that dance? Ha! Okay quick, take a drink and tighten the snare a little. There are the pliers…no time but next break for sure.

Here are the tight three songs in a row. Let’s keep it moving, this crowd is having as much fun as us, I think. I love this verse part, how that moves in and out of the vocals. Yeah, now let’s do that longer build into the chorus. Guitar looks back.

Yeah, you’re feeling it too! Release into chorus—damn, that is a thing. Love that everyone was on the same page there. Now long ending, two hits! Okay, a little more talking tonight. Oh, that’s funny. Dry off a little. Do I need the fan? Nah, this feels good. There’s the cue, here’s the count. Show over. Advertisement

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Photos by Clair McAllister