By Frances Michelle Lopez
After a successful year in 2008 touring their critically acclaimed debut album The Airing of Grievances, Glen Rock, New Jersey's Titus Andronicus graced the Modified Arts stage to once again dazzle a lucky Phoenix audience with their immensely exuberant and inspiring punk rock gems. I had the privilege of performing with them over a year ago when they were ranked amongst Pitchfork's best new bands of the year, so I was eager to witness their energy again first hand.
Opening up the night was a great new punk band in the Phoenix music scene. The OSS Punks featuring Select Shows promoter Joshua Rodriguez as well as several heavy-hitters such as Dirty Dan from George Moshington and John Q, kept the crowd warm and toasty with their simply composed yet intricately catchy guitar riffs. Lead vocalist Frank Hanney delivered powerfully as the growing crowd provided evidence that this band has got some serious attention coming their way. Highly entertaining and refreshingly ambitious, OSS Punks definitely helped set the tone for the night
Next up on the agenda were Titus' tour-mates The So So Glos. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, the quintet made their Phoenix debut to a somewhat apprehensive crowd. However, they won the masses over after displaying their knack for fun punk jams with a heavy power-pop backdrop. I couldn't help but think of where I had heard them before. Surely, there was something very familiar about their sound--not quite an imitation of punk bands past, but a hybrid of sorts. They had an air of originality to them, yet I felt like I could sing along to nearly every song. Even their presence reminded me of some beloved punker from my past. For example, frontman and bassist Alex Levine reminded me (in the best ways) of a mixture between the Libertines' Pete Doherty if he and Julian Casablancas of the Strokes decided to create a positively charged superman; cool and bursting with charm without the bad attitude and horrendous heroin withdrawals.
However, the night truly belonged to Titus Andronicus. The now four-piece indie outfit who has earned tons of buzz in the past year and a half is fronted by lead singer-guitarist Patrick Stickles. Having written Grievances between his senior year in high school and his junior year of college, Stickles' writing has developed into fist-pumping rock anthems that would make such legends as Bruce Springsteen and the Replacements proud. On this cool autumn night, Titus Andronicus not only delivered the goods but told you to throw out the instruction manuals for a truly empowering punk rock experience. In the beginning of their set they began with a slow interlude equipped with delayed soundscapes and ambience as the entire band picked up the speed to jump right into an energetic and captivating track off of their debut. And with that, Modified went nuts.
With plenty of die-hard Titus fans on hand, the floorboards underneath us creaked and the humidity rose from the body heat of the bodies willfully crashing into each other to be a part of this night. Titus seemed to have played forever, but none of the dozens of people at Modified (including myself) seemed to mind. They were loud, in your face, and reminded you that punk rock was not meant to be overtly brooding and introspective. They made people dance and sing-along. They reminded everyone that there should always be community.
I leave you with a quote by Stickles towards the end of their set: "Punk is about building something, not destroying it."
Last Night: OSS Punks, the So So Glos, and Titus Andronicus at Modified Arts.
Better Than: Going to the 21+ Dillinger Four show at Jugheads (when they played a supremely cooler all ages show at the Manor hours before), only to be denied admission because you probably had a drink or two at somewhere else.
Personal Bias: Josh from Select Shows/ OSS Punks is a buddy of mine and I was looking forward to seeing his new band. Also, having already met Titus Andronicus last year, I was very eager to go to this see them again as well. However, biases were put aside in this review and their performances really did blow me away.
Random Fact: The So So Glos looked for a man named Logan in the middle of their set who turned out to be my good friend Logan Greene of Low Gun Booking and various bands from Tucson. Post-set, Logan just sort of popped out of nowhere after his performances at the Grand Avenue Festival.