One of the first things you learn in an Intro to journalism course in college is that you’re supposed to distance yourself from the story. Objectivity is the goal, and if you’re, say, a journalist who’s actively occupying Wall Street, you’re probably not going to write an interesting, or fair, article looking at both sides of the issue. But when it comes to Titus Andronicus, who headlined CMJ’s Stereogum/Popgun showcase last night at Glasslands, it’s hard not to say fuck it. Half the fun comes from being in the middle of the mosh pit, infused with free vodka doled before the show, pumping one fist to, “The enemy is everywhere!” and pounding an on-stage monitor with the other to lines like, “It’s alright the way that you live.”
The first two bands of the evening, Canada’s Hollerado and San Diego’s Cuckoo Chaos, and in particular their singers, both sounded a little like, Vampire Weekend, with the former adding a welcome power-pop resonance to songs like “Juliette” and “Americanarama.” (They also complimented New Yorkers coming out to late-night shows on a Tuesday and told an amusing story about how one of the things they’ve learned about the U.S. is to never eat at Applebee’s. Aw, Canadians.) The latter, on the other hand, ditched the pop hooks that make songs like “M79” so memorable in favor of long, meandering afro-pop jams. The bass section was strong, but with three guitarists, the songs became muddled and vocals often undecipherable, even from a few feet away.
Much better was Mr. Dream, the Brooklyn-based trio (including two former Pitchfork contributors) who take up where In Utero left off. The riffs are jagged, the drums pounded, the lyrics shout-sung—basically, they sound like a Steve Albini record. Occasionally, that came back to hurt them (much of Albini’s sounds overly calculated to me, and the moments that should have been spontaneous seemed to be intentionally so), but that was greatly overshadowed by the sound of three cocksure, devil-may-care guys influenced by a particular genre and point in time that deserves to be emulated.
Chelsea Wolfe was supposed to appear next, but she had an airport mishap (I guess?) and was a no-show. (Delay highlight: two guys on the balcony grabbed a piece of the coral-looking Papier-mâché that hangs over Glassland’s stage, and made it into a small origami bird.) So after a restless hour, Delicate Steve came on stage to a warm response from the audience. (Delicate) Steve Marion and his band play warm, quirky (read: whistles, clapping, and a melodica appearance) mostly instrumentals, a kaleidoscope of dance-worthy sound, from Paul Simon’s Graceland (not Vampire Weekend!) to flashy sonic guitar jams.
Before launching into a song from the band’s first album, 2008’s The Airing of Grievances, Patrick Stickles, lead singer and guitarist of Titus Andronicus, commented that releasing something three years ago is an entirety in indie rock. In the time since, Titus has toured with the Pogues, released a beloved sophomore album, The Monitor, and appeared on a New York Times subway ad. So maybe they’re not a buzz band who need the press the way so many of the hundreds of acts not named J. Mascis or Wild Flag need it this week, but there’s a reason for that: they’ve already proved they’re one of the best bands out there.
While the rest of the evening’s group performed for 30-45 minutes, Titus was given a 90-minute set, beginning at 1 a.m., and they filled out every minute of it with their Springsteen-gone-punk anthems, from the self-titled “Titus Andronicus,” featuring a “Your life is over” clap break, to two new untitled wordy songs that could have been Monitor B-sides, to the pairing of “The Battle of Hampton Roads,” already a fourteen-minute song, with “Titus Andronicus Ever,” and a closing one-two of “And Ever…” and a Craig Finn-less “A More Perfect Union.” Or something like that. I stopped taking setlist notes the minute the band took the stage—their enthusiasm, particularly the way Amy Klein smiles and jumps up and down in place while playing guitar, is engrossing and makes you want to throw yourself around into the pit (Which, of course, many did in the tight Glasslands space, with a few even knocking into Patrick while jumping off the stage into the adoring crowd beneath). And the songs are even better. Every track is guaranteed at least one moment where inhibitions are thrown aside, and you just have to yell, “Where are all your friends now?” For those bunched near the front of the stage, they were all around.