Ted Leo and the Pharmacists at Rhythm Room Last Night

Jonathan McNamara

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Rhythm Room
October 4, 2010

It's sort of rare when a mosh pit is possible but not inevitable. You know, when a band could inspire a little knock-push-bounce action but it isn't necessarily a forgone conclusion.

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, who played Phoenix's Rhythm Room last night, occupy the gray area. The band plays punk for indie types. Or maybe it's just power pop from a grown-up former hardcore kid. Or perhaps it's more socially concerned mod-ish DIY dub-fusion -- to combine a few more tags applied by various sources attempting to describe the D.C.-based band's cerebral, energetic, and aggressive songs.

Jonathan McNamara
Whatever genre want to file them under, Leo and his bandmates put on a solid-to-great Monday night show for a crowd that wasn't as large or rambunctious as it may have been on a weekend, and with Spoon not playing down in Tucson.

Drawing heavily from his excellent new album, The Brutalist Bricks, Leo led the Rx through a well-paced hour-and-15-minute set. The best Bricks track ("Last Days") was left out, actually, but a few unexpected flashbacks, like "Me and Mia" from 2004's Shake The Streets and "Biomusicology" from 2001's The Tyranny of Distance, made up for it. "I'm a Ghost" from 2003's Hearts Of Oak was a highlight as were the Bricks tracks "Where Was My Brain?" and "One Polaroid a Day," the latter coming complete with a nifty little organ solo.

As expected, Leo's stage banter was sharp and witty -- an analysis of how Kiss manages to be vulgar without actually using profanity sticks out -- living up to his reputation for being "punk rock's A student."

Oh, and there was some moshing. But just a little, toward the end, and it was done pretty tepidly. Not really enough to determine whether Ted/Rx make moshing music or not.

Go with what feels natural until further notice.

Critics Notebook:

Personal Bias
: Pro punk for old people so long as it's smart stuff.

The Crowd
: Clean-cut tattoo-less library punks.

Overheard in the Crowd
: "Nice shirt!" a girl yelled, complimenting Leo's Mexico shirt. What's up with the "Nice Shirt" thing -- is this the new "Freebird"?

Random Notebook Dump
: "Fucking Phoenix!" Leo says, then pauses. "That might be the most rock 'n' roll moment I've unconsciously indulged in."