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Monday, April 12th, 2010

The Monitor

Titus Andronicus, Hollerado and Sandman Viper Command at Sneaky Dee’s in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangKids and their punk rock. That none of the bands on the bill at Sneaky Dee’s on Friday night were really what anyone who gave it some thought would call punk was irrelevant – the youth of Toronto were out and were gonna get drunk and smash some shit up. And Titus Andronicus would be their soundtrack.

The evening began relatively politely, with Burlington’s Sandman Viper Command making a strong argument against the attitude that nothing good has ever come out of Burlington (that’s my attitude, anyways). The quartet, who have one album under their belt in last year’s Everybody See This, impressed with a breed of rock that clearly had its eye on interesting and unconventional musical horizons while keeping sight of the directness and melodicism of their garage-y roots. Usually the most a local act opening for a hotly-tipped touring act can hope for is politeness, but when their set was cut a bit short by frontman Rob Janson’s Gibson SG ceasing to function, there was genuine disappointment from the crowd.

That feeling wouldn’t last, however, as Hollerado – who proudly hail from Manotick, Ontario and not Ottawa thank you very much – would turn any frowns upside down with their set. Though almost a year has passed since I first saw them last June opening up for The Dead Weather at the Horseshoe, they were still working their debut Record In A Bag, though in the interim it had gone from free download to actual physical product you could buy (but it’s still available for free). Also the same as last time was the fact that they put on a fantastic show that made it clear that they knew that playing rock’n’roll was supposed to be fun and if there was one thing clear through their loud, tight riffs and big hooks was that they were having fun and when the band’s having fun, the audience is almost certainly having fun. Those seeking angst would find it in spades with the headliners.

It was last week that I declared my obsession/admiration for Titus Andronicus’ new record The Monitor, which is something that really took me entirely by surprise considering their debut The Airing Of Grievances didn’t make all that much of an impression when it was reissued last year. I suspect that put me in the minority of those who were piled into the front of Sneaky Dee’s as the Glen Rock, New Jersey band was setting up shop. If they weren’t already long-term believers, then they were new converts with the zeal that comes that and as soon as the band kicked things off with “A More Perfect Union”, it became very clear to me that my position up front and centre was a very bad place to be if I wanted to survive the night. After basically being pushed onstage and on top of frontman Patrick Stickles’ monitor and pedalboard, I fought my way towards the relative safety of the sides of the stage and let those hell-bent on moshing the night away do their thing.

Without my body to act as a buffer, the mosh pit quickly surged onto the stage and knocked out Stickles’ vocal monitors completely and his appeals to try and keep the bedlam off of his pedals so that he could keep playing looked like they were falling on deaf ears. And right there, in a nutshell, was the odd position that Titus Andronicus seemed to find themselves in with this record and tour – its scope, cerebralness and general awesomeness make The Monitor an album that deserves to be listened closely to, to be meditated upon, but their more visceral qualities – which are legion, especially live – will just make the kids want to freak out. They eventually gave up on the monitors, just crossed their fingers for their gear and aside from a request to try not to crush anyone, plowed ahead.

Now I’d heard many tales of Titus Andronicus’ live prowess at SxSW last month, but even forewarned it was something to behold. With slightly crazy eyes and a thick black beard, Stickles was a magnetic figure on stage, wringing out anthemic guitar lines from his abused Gretsch, screaming himself hoarse into the mic – in key, no less, despite not being able to hear himself – and even going for a crowd surf. And his bandmates managed to recreate far more of the sounds and nuances of The Monitor than we had any right to expect, thanks in particular to keyboardist David Robbins and second guitarist/violinist Amy Klein. As it should have, the set leaned heavily on The Monitor with some of the quieter tracks swapped out for a healthy selection of Grievances‘ raucousness – as such, the only lulls came within the songs and the overall energy level of the hour-plus performance never waned. When the last notes of “Four Score and Seven” rang out, all that was left was a haze – or daze – of sweat and beer and the understanding that as insane as the crowd was, the opportunity to have seen Titus play before their die-hards should be appreciated because as they continue to blow up – and they will – the number of fans whose musical appreciation manifests itself as head-nodding (which largely includes me, tis true) as well as the size of the rooms they play in will only grow. The bruises and aches will fade, but the memory of seeing Titus Andronicus utterly demolish a small club with a little help from their friends – that will remain. Titus Andronicus forever.

Live Music Project, Chart and eye also have reviews of the show. The Boston Herald, Hartford Courant and Philadelphia Inquirer talk to Patrick Stickles about the themes of The Monitor. Hollerado tells Chart why they’re giving away their old van and Brock Press interviews Sandman Viper Control, who have a neat video session over at Southern Souls.

Photos: Titus Andronicus, Hollerado, Sandman Viper Command @ Sneaky Dee’s – April 9, 2010
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “Four Score And Seven” (Part One)
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “Four Score And Seven” (Part Two)
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “Titus Andronicus”
MP3: Hollerado – “Juliette”
MP3: Hollerado – “Fake Drugs”
MP3: Hollerado – “Americanarama”
MP3: Sandman Viper Command – “Strawberry Quick”
MP3: Sandman Viper Command – “Oh Yeah, It’s Fusion”
ZIP: Hollerado / Record In A Bag
Video: Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”
Video: Titus Andronicus – “Titus Andronicus”
Video: Hollerado – “Juliette”
Video: Hollerado – “Americanarama”
MySpace: Titus Andronicus
MySpace: Hollerado

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review talks to Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers.

Daytrotter has posted up a session with The Dutchess & The Duke, who will be at the Sound Academy on June 15 opening up for The New Pornographers.

Bring Back The Boombox talks to Rolf Klausner of The Acorn, whose new album No Ghost comes out June 1.

The Sadies’ new album Darker Circles isn’t out till May 18 but is currently available to stream. They play Lee’s Palace on May 18 and Harbourfront Centre on Canada Day.

Stream: The Sadies / Darker Circles

Paste declares Timber Timbre the “best of what’s next”. He/they play the Toronto Island Concert on June 19.

The Besnard Lakes will be at the Mod Club on June 17 for what’s sure to be a NxNE-affiliated show.

MP3: The Besnard Lakes – “Albatross”

Chart has details on the unexpected return of Godspeed! You Black Emperor, who will curate this year’s Nightmare Before Christmas edition of All Tomorrow’s Parties, taking place December 3 to 5 in Minehead, UK and follow that up with a number of European and “9 american towns” before again fading into the shadows. Whether they mean “United States of” or “North” is unclear, and they’re unsurprisingly refusing to do press so the answer to whether or not they’ll be playing anywhere near here will have to wait until they say so.

By : Frank Yang at 8:32 am
Category: Concert Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post5 Responses.
  1. Brendan says:

    Great review. Thanks!

  2. Mike says:

    I think you made the right decision to skip Fanfarlo on Friday night. Titus put on an epic show!

  3. Jay Blackwood says:

    This show was fantastic! Frank, sorry for getting shoved in to you! Great review.

  4. Different Mike from the first one says:

    Saw them in New York a while ago. Haven’t heard much of the new album, but here is a good review of it. http://www.beyondrace.com/reviews/music-reviews/2393-titus-andronicus-the-monitor-77

  5. Concert Review: Titus Andronicus, July 14, Horseshoe Tavern | The Panic Manual says:

    […] are for “any laymen in the crowd”)  He’s a pretty engaging frontman. Based on previous reviews of their shows as well as comments Stickles made about “respecting personal space” and how they had to […]