Live: Titus Andronicus Get In Touch With Their Feminine Sides At Mercury Lounge
Consider Amy Andronicus, née Klein, she of magnificent New Jersey punk-rockers Titus Andronicus, and an awfully cheering sight up there onstage, surrounded by all those severe bearded men screaming shit like "THE ENEMY IS EVERYWHERE!" and "YOUR LIFE IS OVER!" and "YOU WILL ALWAYS BE A LOSER!" and whatnot. She's screaming that stuff too, usually, but she just seems happier about it, bouncing around with a huge smile on her face even during the slow parts, switching from guitar to disarmingly poignant violin as events warrant, generally lighting up a room TA mastermind Patrick Stickles (a pretty cheerful presence himself, but that beard is just so severe) seems intent on shrouding in self-loathing darkness. It's all very sweet, or at least that's what you think until the band launches into a cover of X-Ray Spex' "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!" with Amy on lead vocals, and suddenly you are fearing for your life.
Good lord does Amy ever sing the crap out of "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!" Screaming and snarling and stalking the stage with homicidal glee and generating more howling catharsis than her band manages on the entirety of last year's already incredibly cathartic The Monitor, an album with which I have only recently become obsessed. Songs therein still manage to make for fantastic highlights tonight, from the frantic aggro-waltz "Four Score & Seven" to the even more frantic 15-minute epic "Battle of Hampton Roads," with lots of huge three-guitar burnouts but a stark, striking, minimalist core during which Stickles just moans "Please don't ever leave" a couple dozen times. Stuff from 2008's The Airing of Grievances fares just as well, particularly the blunt-force nihilist simplicity of "Titus Andronicus" (the YOUR LIFE IS OVER! one), a nice compliment to their two nominal power ballads: "To Old Friends & New" triggers a massive, drunken, backslapping sing-a-long, and Stickles crooning "Me, I have got problems of my own" is a nice piece of sarcastic understatement.
(A quick note for Titus obsessives: This was their new bass player's first show. His name is Julian. Other than flubbing "Richard II" for a bit it seems like he'll fit in just fine.)
But it's Amy's show from "Bondage" on, and it should be: We are mashed into so intimate a venue for a benefit honoring the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, with whom she's volunteered for half a decade now, turning ladies 8-18 into fledgling rock goddesses like Care Bears on Fire, your pretty fantastic, drastically underage brat-punk openers who get a bunch of loutish twentysomething dudes to form an actual mosh pit (goofiest-looking mosh pit ever, but still) as they beam through covers ("Saturday Night Special," "My My Metrocard") and brash originals with titles like "Super Teen" and "Barbie Eat a Sandwich." The future is as bright as the present, and respect is paid tonight in plenty of small ways: "I was born to die just like a man!" Stickles howls, before adding an ad lib entirely appropriate for the occasion: "Or a woman!"
Critical Bias: Seriously, I have listened to little else but The Monitor for the past two months.
Overheard: Lots of encouragement for Care Bears on Fire.
Random Notebook Dump: Raffle prizes tonight include a spot at an upcoming Willie Mae camp, a guitar lesson from Amy herself, a +1 to every show Titus Andronicus headlines in 2011, and a Titus/Care Bears "prize pack" that includes "pickles emphatically made by Patrick." I would not want to eat those pickles.
Titus Andronicus Set List
No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future
Joset of Nazareth's Blues
Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ
To Friends Old and New
Titus Andronicus (with "White Riot" bonus)
The Battle of Hampton Roads
A More Perfect Union
Titus Andronicus Forever
Oh Bondage! Up Yours! [X-Ray Spex]
If the Kids Are United [Sham 69]
Four Score and Seven