Live: Ted Leo, Titus Andronicus, And The So So Glos Occupy Shea Stadium

tedleo_sheastadiumnovember19.jpg
Ted Leo.
Ted Leo, Titus Andronicus, So So Glos
Shea Stadium
Monday, November 21

Better than: Getting into another political argument on Tumblr.

In honor of last night's benefit for the National Lawyers Guild at Shea Stadium, the letters "OWS," for "Occupy Wall Street," were haphazardly applied to the wall behind the stage in black tape, the "O" specifically incomplete. The PA played radical punk, metal and hip-hop that was socially recognizable—communal, even. When Rage Against the Machine's "Bombtrack" trickled out of the speakers, a horizon line of mutual unconscious headbanging sprang up.

Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles looked gaunt and crazed as he walked across the stage, courting the unselfconscious space between complete wild engagement and weird sensitive coiling. He encouraged the crowd to go wild but within responsible terms, quoting Bob Dylan's "Absolutely Sweet Marie": "To live outside the law/ You must be honest."

Two minutes into their first song, which grew inexorably from a slow acoustic shuffle into unearned, linear bombast, Stickles yelled "Fuck!" The crowd surged. The crashing was big and incredible, a mass of pink chemical aggression, but it had been also weirdly manipulated. Later, to induce a calm moment, Stickles moaned over a keyboard figure for a few minutes; there were two lighters in the air. "This isn't a Fugazi concert or anything—we're all adults here," Stickles said at one point. (His digression emphasized safety from destruction of property and other human beings, which are paramount at Fugazi shows; you are never less of an adult then when you are allowed to inhabit an ecstatic irresponsibility.)

Listening to and experiencing Titus Andronicus is like observing from within the ribcage of a dead and stripped giant animal. It is impressively empty, and there is an inarticulate prehistoric distance that is impossible to bridge. The band seems to want to assess tremendous American lore (in their specific case, the Civil War) in the microcosm of New Jersey, which would be a fine idea if it felt like they did any of the work to realize it.

Near the end of Titus's set, someone requested a drinking song. "This is not a song about fucking drinking," replied Stickles, agitated. "This is a song about fucking justice." Titus launched into a brash and unsubtle cover of "I Fought the Law," and then invited Ted Leo and So So Glos vocalist Alex Levine to play Billy Bragg's "To Have and To Have Not," the chorus of which was exchanged among the frontmen: "Just because you're better than me/ Doesn't mean I'm lazy/ Just because you're going forwards/ Doesn't mean I'm going backwards."

Ideas about Occupy Wall Street were in the air, foremost among them the political idea of consistency. In occupying a specific location for a lengthy period of time, protesters effectively buried themselves in a national conversation and physically articulated their willingness to stick to their guns. "You know how old I am?" Leo rhetorically asked the crowd. "You know how many marches I've been on? I get home and I feel great and two days later any media presence evaporates."

The stability of the movement seemed at odds with the instability of the show; Leo's set was loud and unhinged, a predominantly tight band combating sickness and wild sound. "How are you guys doing?" Leo asked at one point; "I'm not at 100 percent tonight," he later admitted. Regardless, there was a charm in the loose, untangled way Leo's set hinged on anomie. The bass frequency hummed from what seemed at that point a blown speaker.

Leo had completely degraded vocally but regardless returned for an encore that included songs about the marginalized working class, among them Uncle Tupelo's "Whiskey Bottle" and Chumbawumba's "I Never Gave Up." Between songs, he further assessed the Occupy Wall Street movement, and its ideological successes. "A lot of people have been singing and talking about a lot of issues for a long time," Leo said, bright and tired. "It's great that we finally found that modality."

Critical bias: I may or may not have been in the pit for half of Ted Leo's set.

Overheard: The sad-looking punk with toilet paper in his ears can probably double as a sign of how hard it was to hear people.

Random notebook dump: Shea Stadium is a reminder of the weird unpopulated air that prevails in some desolate and extinct Brooklyn sections. Inside is loft with punk basement pretensions—hard, unyielding floors, a conscious wear in everything from persistent disuse, a tremendous amount of space that is quickly peopled and forgotten. There are also significant ideas about the Mets here—the name, the logo painted on the wall. It feels like a lost, admired space.

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9 comments
Jason Mandel
Jason Mandel

ive seen titus four times now and 5th for the glos and second for the great ted leo and this was by far THE BEST concert i have ever attended, nothing can even compare to the feelings and frustration at the world and pure joy a titus show can invoke. and buschwick is DEFFINITELY not extinct, its a totally different vibe than yr insencere hipstermall could ever hope to achieve

Ted
Ted

Yeah we're all entitled to our opinions -- this is just one individual's observation of a band he was unfamiliar with, taking notes during their live show, recording his opinions along with some correct info, some wrong info. It's not his opinion on Titus that bothers me (I personally think their music & lyrics are great), but his "random notebook dump" on the venue. 

That strange East Williamsburg area is relatively "extinct" in terms of thriving industrial activity, but many of those warehouses have been converted into lofts, studios, galleries and in this case, a music venue/recording studio. The best part of the show was the atmosphere -- a casual DIY venue as opposed to a corporate club with overpriced drinks, strict regulations, a sterile environment, and enforced separation from the performers. This show could have easily been housed in a larger "proper" venue in Manhattan or Williamsburg, but that wouldn't have embraced the community-oriented spirit that is inherent in the Occupy movement. 

Plus Shea Stadium's sound is superb. Great place to see an artist you like perform. And speaking of....this blogger has no opinions on The So So Glos? They always put on a good show, and there was no mention of their set in this write-up.

6h057
6h057

I've just read now more then I would ever like to read about Titus Andronicus. I mean, I "get it" of what they're about, or what their sound is. And it's not my thing. There are plenty of other things. But did I really miss out on a show in what is effectively some dudes loft apartment in taint of Brooklyn? (T'ain't quite Williamsburg, t'ain't quite Bushwick) I'm really happy that people have "opinions" about "things that are rather important" but honestly I couldn't give a flying fuck about a band derivative of the first 4 years of the early 90s. So sensitive the fandom get when a less than favorable review gets out of the hog pen. Perhaps it's just a subterfuge for people with terrible taste trying to feel something real... But if I speculate any further, I suppose I won't be much different from y'all.

Village Voice
Village Voice

Wow. This missed the point entirely. Bad Write-Up. Horrible Cell phone Picture? Best show I've ever been to from The So So Glos to Titus Andronicus to Ted Leo's epic set.

Anonymous
Anonymous

You need to be familiar with a band's work prior to reviewing them live. You've clearly never listened to Titus Andronicus; if you had, you would know that Stickles yelled "Fuck You" and that the song is called "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ". Beyond that, you would understand that the Civil War imagery was a major part of the band's second album The Monitor and that it has more to do with an existential crisis than New Jersey.The irony of claiming that TItus didn't do the work to assess American lore when you didn't even take the time to research the band before reviewing their live show is pretty great.I'll take a cue from Stickles and quote Bob Dylan; "Don't criticize what you don't understand." 

rendit
rendit

I have a hard time believing all of that was in your notebook, randomly.

M.
M.

WOW you couldn't be more wrong.  this was one of the most fun and most communal shows I've ever been to.  How dare you say listening to Titus is like being inside a dead animal? And call the industrial part of brooklyn "extinct"?  In fact it's probably one of the few places left in brooklyn where NYers are earning a living wage!!! And MAKING THINGS rather than selling beer! I am at a loss for words.  Why were you sent to a punk show?

6h057
6h057

I think the sound in Shea is terrible. I mean, short of an efficient PA system, it has the acoustics of a unfinished basement. Which is great for certain shows (okay, seeing a band you forgive because it's such an intimate setting) but I wouldn't really go there to "check somebody out". 

As for the Taint of Brooklyn, Meadow St is in a pretty desolate part. Much like Gowanus, the streets are sort of empty, but I do know there is life behind those foreboding walls. The problem is there's nothing to *explore* out there. It's not like Dumbo or the Village. If you're out there, you're going somewhere. Or you're buying drugs.

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