TITUS ANDRONICUS live at Quinnipiac Festapalooza. Hamden CT. 4.20.12
July 10th 2010 may have been the first truly beautiful day of my life. If the previous March was the watershed month that set my life on the course that it’s been on for the past two years, then July 10th was the first real manifestation of that change. That night, Titus Andronicus played a packed show in New Haven, Connecticut with Hallelujah The Hills and Bomb The Music Industry!. That night I found out what it was like to be thoroughly engaged with music on both a physical and mental level. Much like TItus Andronicus’ record The Monitor, released earlier that year, had made me experience recorded music in a different way, that show at Lilly’s Pad made me appreciate live music more than I ever had before.
Needless to say, when I found out that the dynamic pairing of Titus Andronicus and Bomb The Music Industry! would be returning to Connecticut, I was excited. I had seen Titus Andronicus twice since that show two years ago, and had seen Bomb The Music Industry! once more as well. My friend Ben Goodheart tipped me off that he was trying to get the two to headline a day-long festival he was putting together at Quinnipiac, and I waited with baited breath for the official announcement. As it turned out, the lineup was even better than I could have expected. In addition to two Quinnipiac-affiliated acts, the festival (dubbed Festapalooza) boasted The Front Bottoms and my good friends in The Guru.
When I arrived at the Quinnipiac campus yesterday, I immediately spotted the members of The Guru looking out from a bay window on the second floor of the athletic center where the show was being held. They waved down to me, and I entered the building and ascended the stairs in an attempt to track them down. Soon enough, I found myself backstage, quite accidentally. As I hobnobbed with The Guru, I realized that the members of Titus Andronicus and The Front Bottoms were lounging around in the very same room. I quickly re-introduced myself to Patrick Stickles (whom I had met three times before) before being called downstairs to do an impromptu video interview with The Guru. Soon enough, it was time to start the show.
I didn’t pay much attention to the opening act The Midnighters, but I found myself drawn to their followup act Great Caesar, a local group whom I had previously seen at The Space last year. I didn’t remember much about them from that show, but they quickly won me over last night with their power pop guitar licks and jazz sensibilities. Their frontman sang like a cross between Paul Westerberg and a 1950s crooner, and the combination of shoegazy guitars and tenor saxophone was exciting and unique. The Guru came on next, and within seconds of their first song I was brought back to this past summer, when going to a Guru show was practically a weekly activity for me. Their set was just as fun and as engaging as any I’ve seen, and the growing crowd seemed to really enjoy their frenetic psych-rock vibe.
Afterwards, The Front Bottoms took the stage, supplementing their traditional guitar/drums duo formula with a bassist/keyboardist. I had never given much serious listening to this band before, but from what I could tell, their bolstered sound really helped their performance. I was also amazed and surprised by what a draw they had, and how active their fans were during the show. For an acoustic guitar-led band that doesn’t really qualify as ‘folk punk,’ they maintained an incredibly high level of energy and crowd participation throughout. They also established a level of fun that topped even The Guru that night — a hard task to accomplish.
Although it actually seemed like The Front Bottoms had the most devoted fans of the night, my level of excitement last night only began to truly peak with Bomb The Music Industry!’s set. When I saw them the previous two times, I had only been a passive fan of their music, but ever since Vacation came out last year, I’ve gotten much more invested in them. Thankfully for me, their set was just about as perfectly aligned with my tastes as it possibly could have been. They played a whole lot of Vacation material, opening with “Campaign For A Better Next Weekend” and moving right into “Everybody That Loves You,” “Everybody That You Love,” and the album highlight “Hurricane Waves,” which elicited two impassioned stage dives from me. Other highlights included the sped up version of the breezy “Can’t Complain,” which was transformed into a high energy punk song with distorted guitars, and the pining, emotional slow jam “The Shit That You Hate,” which became an impressive singalong lovefest. They only played a few tracks that weren’t on Vacation, but the songs that they chose were among their best. “Side Projects Are Never Successful” sounded as much like an apocalyptic party as it possibly could, and their penultimate song “25” served as a great lead in to their very last, the Vacation closer “Felt Just Like Vacation.” Throughout their entire set, I couldn’t help but feel that this band (especially Jeff Rosenstock) was at their creative peak, despite having been around for nearly a decade. Plus, the abundance of beach balls everywhere was a fitting touch.
Although Bomb The Music Industry!’s set last night vastly outshone their previous performances that I’ve seen, Titus Andronicus’ headlining set did not. That certainly doesn’t mean it wasn’t great though; it’s just that the July 2010 show still stands as one of my top two or three favorite shows ever. Titus Andronicus took the opportunity afforded to them by this show to perform a lot of new material, much of which will probably appear on their currently untitled third full length album, supposedly due out at the beginning of next year or the end of this year. The new material was a little hard to get into, but from what I could tell, the studio versions will probably sound great. Among the new songs played were a lengthy jam called “Ecce Homo” and an even lengthier, multi-part epic called “My Eating Disorder.”
In between new songs, Titus Andronicus played some great older material as well. Working with a more streamlined punk rock lineup, featuring only three guitars, bass, and drums, the band cut away the instrumental fat from some of their tracks from The Monitor and did justice to the noisy and aggressive material on The Airing Of Grievances, their 2008 debut. Early on in the set, they played the vintage Airing Of Grievances track “Upon Viewing Breughel’s Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus,” which appropriately led into their new non-album single “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood Of Detritus.” On “Titus Andronicus,” Patrick Stickles busted out a harmonica and began wailing on it in between verses, and eventually passed me the mic as I crowdsurfed during the “your life is over” breakdown part. Ironically, I don’t think I had ever felt more alive. Patrick seemed a little worn out at points, but he and the other band members demonstrated impressive resilience during the lengthy The Monitor battle hymns “A More Perfect Union,” “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future,” and the closer “Four Score And Seven.” By the time they began their last song, only a fraction of the crowd that was there at the beginning remained, but those of us who were still standing managed to give it our all, singing along with gusto and finally reveling in one last high-energy push in “Four Score And Seven’s” final half.
With some unfamiliar material and poor sound mixing, it wasn’t a perfect set, but perfection wasn’t what I wanted. What this show left me was an idea — an idea that being part of something even as seemingly temporary or superficial as a punk rock show is just as real and important as anything else. Titus Andronicus could have played anything last night and I probably would have liked it, but I really did need this to happen. Forget September 2011. Forget my ex-girlfriend. Last night was the first time I’ve been truly happy in what feels like a lifetime. My life isn’t over yet, but if it had to end right now, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Check out more photos from this show over at the Lewis and his Blog facebook page!