Live Review: Titus Andronicus, Free Energy; Appleseed Cast tonight, Bloodcow Saturday; Cursive Sunday…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
How would I describe last night’s Titus Andronicus show at The Waiting Room? I wouldn’t say it was “epic” as much as an attempt at being epic. You could describe Titus’ music as tuneful anthem punk — the songs usually start off as quiet indie ballads that slowly build and explode into pounding riffs, sing-along lyrics and the occasional Celtic-flavored melody. It’s a lot of territory to cover, and that means some pretty long songs. And though I was exhausted at the end of their 90-minute set, I felt like I just saw what could become an important band at a pivotal moment in its history.
They’re still just starting out. While Titus has gotten a lot of national press and attention (including some late-night network chat-show airplay) for a band that’s only been around only a couple years, it’s still very much flying under the radar, judging by last night’s draw of only a couple hundred, many of whom came to see pop opener Free Energy. In fact, at the end of the set, Titus did the ol’ “We’re looking for a place to crash tonight” spiel from stage. They’re definitely living out of the van these days, but judging by last night’s performance, they won’t be for long.
The band is centered on frontman Patrick Stickles, who looks like your typical indie rock beardo but sings like a man trying to exorcise his own evil spirits. He’s both a crooner and a howler, and as I said in yesterday’s feature, has often been compared to Conor Oberst vocally. You could hear some of that last night, and Stickles even acknowledged it about four songs into the set, saying that though the band has never been to Omaha, they’ve been plagued by a certain Omaha singer/songwriter, and then went on to say that his next song’s self-loathing nature (“No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future”) would showcase this. And that’s exactly what it did. We got the bray, we got the shrill screams, but they weren’t a central part of his vocal style, and when he flat out sang, he didn’t resemble Oberst at all.
Beyond the countless anthems, the highlight was the ironically named “Theme from ‘Cheers'” (my fave from their latest album) and their cover of The Misfits’ “Where Eagles Dare.” Stickles has a great band behind him these days (Titus has gone through a number of personnel changes over the past couple years), but the most entertaining addition is guitarist/violinist Alexi Crawford, whose constant pogoing — bouncing around the stage — was infectious, especially to the crowd up front. She’s the kind of person anyone would want in their band because in addition to being an amazing musician and having a sweet voice, she is intensely “into” every song — you get the sense that she feels like the luckiest person on the face of the earth to be on stage performing with this band.
If Titus has a drawback, it’s in their lack of editing. There were just too many anthems, too many attempts at heroics with each song. One can only stand so many epic closers before they begin to wear on you. It’s hard to fault a band that is just trying to entertain the best way it knows how — and with large portions. But sometimes you have to push yourself away from the table and say “no more” (but this comes from a guy who has zero interest in sitting through one of Springsteen’s legendary four-hour marathon concerts — an hour is more than enough of the Boss). I think Titus is still trying to figure out the right balance, and when they do — both on stage and on their recordings — they’re going to find themselves sleeping in the Hilton downtown instead of on somebody’s floor.
Lots o’ hype about opening band Free Energy, and like I said, they were the reason a large portion of the crowd was there. And while I like pop rock as much as the next guy, I just wasn’t feeling it. Sure, they know their way around a good ’70s-style rock song, but frontman Paul Sprangers (following in a long tradition of frontmen who don’t play an instrument on stage) is no Robin Zander or Phil Lynott (or Julian Casablancas, for that matter) when it comes to cock-rock stage presence (if anything, he reminded me of Evan Dando). But that may come with time, along with some better songs. One of their set’s biggest crowd-pleasers was when members of Titus joined them on stage for a cover of Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down” that made me wonder why more people don’t cover that song.
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On the radar screen this weekend
Tonight at The Waiting Room, Appleseed Cast returns. As interesting as the headliner are opening bands Lawrence’s Cowboy Indian Bear and new Omaha shoe-gaze flavored rockers Conduits. $12, 9 p.m.
Down at Slowdown, Ember Schrag returns. Opening is The Chiara Quartet and Noah Sterba & The Cocktails. $7, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, this year’s Nebraska Pop Festival continues (it’s been going on in Benson for the past few days) at PS Collective. On the bill is Lincoln’s Floating Opera along with Omaha’s Thunder Power and a slew of out-of-towners. The full line-up is here. 7 p.m., $5.
Tomorrow night punk superstars/deviants Bloodcow celebrates its 10 year anniversary at The Waiting Room with Filter Kings and Saudi Arabia (The Dinks). $7, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, down at O’Leaver’s Saturday night, it’s a Speed! Nebraska mini showcase with Wagon Blasters, Ron Wax (Ron Albertson of Mercy Rule) and Students of Crime. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Then Sunday night, it’s night one of two nights of Cursive at The 49’r. Opening is So-So Sailors. Starts at 9, SOLD OUT.
Finally, at The Waiting Room Sunday night, it’s the Pine Ridge Live Recording session for a benefit CD that will be sold later this year to generate cash for Lash LaRue’s annual Toy Drive. Slated to perform: Kyle Harvey , Jake Bellows, Dustin Clayton, All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, Son of 76 , Platte River Rain, Korey Anderson, Vago, Matt Cox, Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship, Brad Hoshaw, Josh Dunwoody, LL Dunn, Mariachi San Juan, Cass Brostad, Brad Thompson and more. The show starts at noon and runs ’til closing, and is absolutely free.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.