Titus Andronicus has achieved a level of fame in both the indie and punk world that’s resulted in nation-wide recognizability. The band is, at this point, a relatively big-name act in the indie scene.
That’s why the group performed at The El Rey Theater on their first club date in Los Angeles since a 2010 show in East L.A.’s tiny Bootleg Bar. The band has a strong fanbase on the West Coast yet the venue was noticeably not as crowded as it could’ve been, due in part to relatively steep ticket prices (27.50, with fees) as well as the numerous awesome punk shows going on in the LA area on Thursday night (Japandroids at The Fonda, Title Fight at the Eagle Rock Center Of The Arts, etc.) and during the week in general (Refused performed on Monday, METZ performed at The Echo on Wednesday, and Trail Of Dead took on the Echoplex on Friday). Still, I’ve never seen such a relatively small audience (for a large venue) go so absolutely nuts for a band.
Titus Andronicus has the tendency to draw these fervent fans— men and women that span a variety of ages yet have one thing in common: they like to mosh and they can belt Patrick Stickles lyrics back at him with gleeful intensity.
The band took the stage with their standard greeting of “We’re Titus Andronicus from Glen Rock, New Jersey” before diving straight into Local Business opener “Ecce Homo.” They followed with the album’s track two— “Still Life With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter,” making it seem as if they were going to run primarily through newer songs. Seeing some acts stick to newer stuff at a live show can sometimes be a slight disappointment. Yet that was the reason I bought my ticket to the show— to see Titus perform songs from their new album in the live context. And most of the fans up front already knew all the words to the songs from Local Business (which has only been out for a few weeks), anyways.
Of course, the group ended up playing a surprising amount of songs from their first two albums. How could they not play “A More Perfect Union?” If the band has a hit song, that’s it. Whether they like it or not, the audience wants to hear it.
And that’s the beauty of this 2012 rendition of Titus Andronicus. The group now has three albums to draw from, an extensive enough discography to keep the audience guessing at the setlist. And when audience members think they know best as to what the band should play, Stickles quickly shoots them down with his signature brand of pessimistic, witty humor. The intimate audience made communicating with Stickles and the rest of the band much easier (so, consequently, several requests were made), and the stage-to-audience-and-back banter offered insight into the group’s personality and dark humor. According to the frontman’s interaction with an unruly audience member, Local Business track “In A Small Body” just doesn’t work live.
That’s alright. More “No Future Part Three” for the rest of us. Stickles prefaced the performance of that Monitor gem by explaining it, like many of their other songs, has a repeated refrain that makes singing along much easier. Sing along the audience did.
The group also performed some songs from The Airing Of Grievances, notably “Titus Andronicus,” the song that frees Stickles from the constraint of his guitar strap and has become something of a live Titus staple. They also played their other live staple “Titus Androncius Forever,” which allows each band member to showcase his skills with a solo. It’s interesting that Titus has kept doing this rather than switching it up in the wake of Local Business and doing something similar with “Electric Man,” the goofy 60s-era throwback track Stickles wrote after he was electrocuted at a show in Brooklyn.
They did play that song, though, which got some of the older members of the audience smiling at the band’s self-awareness and versatility. They kept the lightheartedness going by following that song with a fairly straightforward (and, actually, good) cover of “Do You Love Me.”
The greatest thing to take away from the show, for Titus fans at least, is that the band all looked genuinely happy playing together. The band’s lineup has morphed significantly over the years and, while no member has left the group on harsh terms, this crew seemed to claim more ownership over the songs (especially the Local Business ones). They’ve got a variety of songs to draw from and they have fun doing it, getting the audience going no matter its size in relation to the room. Titus Andronicus forever.