Last night was a perfect storm, of sorts, for an incredible show in downtown PHX. For starters, it was a First Friday, meaning tons of people would be milling around the downtown area for the bevy of displays and accompanying sights. Secondly, blogosphere idols Candy Claws and Magic Kids were last night's support, creating a solid opening bill for an already impressive headliner. And finally, New Jersey torch bearers Titus Andronicus
sold out the already rather cozy, if you will, Trunk Space -- a venue that is perhaps 1/2 to 1/3 the size that the band can fill in their sleep.
So take those three ingredients and add a healthy dose of 100+ summer heat and the results were sweaty, for lack of a better term.
But fuck that, however, because sweat is what got Titus Andronicus to where they are today. Two albums into their yeoman-like career, Titus Andronicus has established a rather impressive following, garnering heavy critical praise for their grandiose, overblown take on indie rock.
And what comes forth on the band's latest album, The Monitor, is manifested tenfold live. Kicking things off at 11:45 pm with "A More Perfect Union" -- which was the most sublime way to get things going, if you ask me -- Titus Andronicus quickly established their pace and presence, ripping through the song's first chorus to get to the amazingly satisfying line, belted by lead singer Patrick Stickles, "I never wanted to change the world / But I'm looking for a new New Jersey / 'Cause tramps like us / Baby we were born to diiiie." Springsteen he ain't, and Stickles knows this -- but he, and the rest of the crowd, can take umbrage in that nod to Stickles' fellow Garden statesman.
So it went, for the rest of the night -- the band quickly disposed of "A More Perfect Union" for "Titus Andronicus Forever, " screaming, with an all-too-real relish, "The enemy is everywhere," perhaps a too astute observation given Arizona's recent political adventures, if you will. However, the focus was not on politics, thank god, and if that were the case, Stickles & co. would have preferred you read between the lines for that. The rollicking, catchy-chorused "Richard II" and the stoutly declarative "No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future" highlighted a set that decidedly Monitor-heavy.
It was hot last night, there's no denying that. However, a band that is worth the wait and worth the heat has a way of making you ignore all the atmospheric issues that force the sweat to bead down your face. I can attest that once Titus Andronicus took to the stage and started playing, the heat took a backseat for a brief moment -- and that may have been the the most perfect moment from last night.
Critic's Bias: I am a fan of Titus Andronicus, no doubt about it. I turned all my friends who didn't know about the band onto them, yet this was my first chance to finally see them live, and I jumped at it -- even though I didn't realize that: a) the show was on a First Friday, b) in early September in PHX and c) at a venue pretty much devoid of any air conditioning.
The Crowd: A pretty clearcut 18-34 demographic, that crucial age group that major television networks lust over.
Overheard In The Crowd: "There's no easy way of saying this, but it's pretty fucking hot in here."
Random Notebook Dump: "Life is good, let's enjoy it." "Dedicating a song to a dude in front who's been singing the whole time." "I now see where Trunk Space gets their name from."