“We’re all trying to find our ideal place in life. Could that be North Brooklyn? Maybe for some of us. But you’re going to have to work for it, like the hero in this next song…” Cue guitars, a lot more sweat, and a perfectly loud, loose, huge-sounding rendition of “A More Perfect Union.”
Patrick Stickles is such a baller. See what he did there? Stroking his beard like some Rasputin-ian mystic philosopher, he worked in civil responsibility — a reference to the community planning and environmental justice organization NAG that was the focal point of last night’s benefit show — while still being a total rock star, in his own weird way. If you saw him on the street, it'd be hard to tell whether he was a homeless man or the coolest guy ever. He definitely leaned towards the latter onstage last night though, not doing so much singing (carrying a tune has never been his strong suit) as he did speak-shouting into the mic, all breathless and raspy, and counteracting his head-tilted-back, eyes-closed movements with a low-key demeanor like he’s been playing these songs for years. (Which he has—a large portion of the set was taken from Titus’ debut album.) There’s something neurotic about his energy, something that makes him seem slightly off his rocker — it's a huge contributing factor to what makes Titus Andronicus shows what they are — and an element which seemed to be elevated last night.
For starters, the band looked like drowned rats by the time they hit “Arms Against Atrophy,” just four songs in. At previous shows I was never sure whether or not Glasslands had air conditioning, but Glasslands definitely does not have air conditioning. Between Titus’ cult following forming their requisite mosh pit up front and being in such a small venue for a band playing Webster Hall next month, the heat in that place was inescapable last night. Suffocating, almost. The show, partly because of the heat I imagine, and partly because the cause, took on "an intimate show among friends with songs that haven't been played in a while" feel. They had to slow things down every so often, or they probably would have died. And so the calmer moments on songs like "No Future, Pt. 1" were even quieter; the silent pause before "No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future" turns noisy was even more dramatic; the outro to "Four Score and Seven" extended into an ethereal ambiance, and "And Ever" was like a modern-day "Piano Man." To make up for it, the louder material was more urgent, more epic.
Case in point: show game-changer "Four Score and Seven." Granted, it's not hard to get behind a swelling ballad with an electric violin, especially when the lead words are, “This is a war we can’t win / For 10,000 years it's still us against them,” but when it came time for the mid-song tempo change, turning it on its head into a fast and furious pissed-off rampage with rallying calls of "It's still us against them," the soft and hard aspects of Titus were perfectly captured. “You know what they say about indie-rock kids...” Stickles said towards the end of the night, again urging action among the audience to take NAG's message to heart and prove naysayers wrong. "It's still us against them" might just be the entire history of punk rock rolled into five words. It seemed particularly fitting for the night.
"Four Score and Seven:"
*Snaps to sole female member Amy Klein on guitar and violin too. She really is the Regine Chassagne of the band, forever smiling and dancing against the backdrop of flower bouquets/puffs of Kleenex/cotton candy that Glasslands has hanging above the stage.
Find out more about Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) and how to get involved here. It actually seems like a pretty cool organization, and they offer a free citizenship class once a month where current problems in the community are discussed so you actually know what's going on in your own neighborhood. Check it out.