Words: Daniel Schneier
Titus Andronicus played one of their most high profile gigs to date recently, celebrating the release of their sophomore album The Monitor at the Bowery Ballroom on March 6th. The sold-out show, an ages 16-and-over affair with three warm up bands (The Babies, Cloud Nothings, Parts & Labor), had the feel of hardcore matinee, with swarms of angsty punk-lusting teenagers idling in packs around the venue. Alas, it seemed many of the teenage fans, some accompanied by their supportive parents, car keys in hand, had been shuffled out the door and shuttled back to the suburbs by the time the headliners took the stage just after midnight. By the time Titus Andronicus went on, the crowd had grown decidedly older, the room darker and hotter, as the house lights went down and fans filed into the venue.
At the core, Titus Andronicus is the brainchild of frontman Patrick Stickles, a slight, stern-faced New Jersey native with a taste for English literature, a proclivity for long onstage rants and a massive black beard that summons the image of a guitar-strapped suburban sorcerer. On opener A Pot in Which to Piss, Stickles rips through feedback-heavy guitar solos while keyboard player Dave Robbins cuts through a sheen of reverb and distortion, delivering a bluesy barroom style piano solo as a mosh pit takes shape in front of the stage. READ ON for more of Dan’s review of Titus Andronicus…
While the band certainly boasts many of the punk elements and sounds that makes fans want to careen into one another, the music in the live setting, as on the album, is manically eclectic with influences ranging from Black Flag to Buddy Holly to Bruce Springsteen and Neutral Milk Hotel. Introducing The Monitor’s A More Perfect Union, Stickles takes a cue from the Rivers Cuomo playbook of pithy references to ’70s hard rock bands, casually declaring, “In the immortal words of Cheap Trick this next song is the first track on our new album”.*
As The Monitor is an album loosely based on a Civil War battle**, tonight it is General Stickles leading the charge, serenading his band with a cover of The Replacements’ Treatment Bound and shredding the neck of his Gibson ES335 on the post-apocalyptic No Future Part II. Songs like Richard II and Titus Andronicus are played fast and frantic, packing a potent mixture of searing shoegaze and punk along with power-pop riffs and raucous chorus lines. Amy Klein’s violin adds a layer of folky Aaron Copeland-esque Americana to a number of songs including the powerful, 14-minute Battle of Hampton Roads, while drummer Eric Harm made sure the arrangements stayed air-tight throughout the night’s genre-blurring setlist. Whereas many indie bands have fallen into oblivion after delivering promising debut albums, Titus Andronicus’ powerful live show suggests they won’t be abandoning the scene any time soon.
*- See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Zhul9E6arw
** – Specifically, The USS Monitor is a destroyed, sunken battleship that helped successfully defend the Union fleet in the aforementioned Battle of Hampton Roads, but was later lost in stormy sea swells off the coast of Cape Hatteras
A Pot In Which To Piss, Upon Viewing Bruegel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”, A More Perfect Union, Joset of Nazareth’s Blues, Richard II, Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, New Jersey, No Future Part Three: Escape from No Future, Titus Andronicus, My Time Outside The Womb, The Battle Of Hampton Roads, …And Ever, Four Score And Seven, Treatment Bound*, No Future Part II: The Day After No Future
Titus Andronicus continue their tour tonight with a show at 529 in Atlanta, GA which wraps with a “hometown” sold out show on April 24 at Maxwell’s in Hoboken before they head overseas for a string of European dates.