Titus Andronicus, The So So Glos, The Caldwell Walters May 10, 2013
Friday night featured a four-band showcase at the new Walters (not on Washington) headlined by New Jersey indie-punk group Titus Andronicus, bringing their Brooklyn friends The So So Glos along on what they are calling the "Bring Back the Dudes" tour. Locals Chemistry and The Caldwell rounded out the evening.
First band up The Caldwell featured a slew of familiar faces of the Houston music scene playing their first gig ever. Fronted by vocalist/guitarist James Essary, who can also be seen supporting recent scene-stealer Adam Bricks, the band gave forth a solid effort with a set of originals that couldn't help but remind me a whole bunch of the Walkmen.
I guess if you're going to emulate a band, that's surely a good one to choose. The rest of the evening's entertainers were a tad on the louder and heavier side, but The Caldwell brought the perfect amount of noise to ease everyone into the night.
A short but sweet little set from Chemistry found the youngsters leaning more to the punkier side of the evening's bands. Halfway through their performance, a friend mentioned their likeness to Warped Tour vets New Found Glory, which I couldn't have agreed with more.
The pop-punk sound, which somehow has yet to disappear since its emergence in the mid-90s, was more than relevant in the 20 minutes or so these kids were up onstage. The crowd seemed to love it, and it brought a bit more energy to the room after the slower-paced set from The Caldwell.
The first national act of the night was Brooklyn's The So So Glos, who have been gaining a bit of steam in the indie-rock world of as of late. Touring with Titus Andronicus numerous times in years past -- including the original "Bring On the Dudes" tour in 2009 -- the So So Glos seem to be a perfect companion for a road trip across the country. They really brought the party in terms of their music, which was evident with their continual requests for the crowd to get rowdier. And boy, did they.
Finally a nice little hipster pit started to form, which only made the Glos play harder and faster. It was true Brooklyn party-punk, and an excellent gateway to Titus Andronicus' ensuing performance. They were the fluffer, per se, and got the crowd nice and hard for the main event.
Earlier Friday, Titus Andronicus played an in-store at Cactus Music, advertised on the band's Web site with the words, "It starts at 5 p.m., and don't be late, because it has to be pretty short -- we gotta leave some gas in the tank for the real show." Forty-five minutes after their posted start time, the band played their first notes, and didn't let up for more than an hour. They must have a pretty big gas tank; a few weeks ago, Foals' Cactus in-store lasted a song and a half, with the band off the stage in a little more than five minutes. Now, that's short.
But at Cactus, TA played 12 or 13 songs with a heaping helping of hilarity between each one. Front man Patrick Stickles' banter touched on everything from being in love with his bandmate's sister to negative Pitchfork reviews to his love for some Black Eyed Peas song a couple tours back. It had the entire room cracking up -- not under-the-breath chuckles, but full-on, deep, guttural laughing with snorting and such. Others could also debate that this was the best Cactus in-store ever.
Their nighttime set was much different. Not to say that the Cactus show was quiet, because it wasn't by any means -- it was just loud as shit at Walters. They started just a bit after midnight, and took their full two hours to bring their "hits" to the adoring Houston fans. It had been some time since they were last in Houston, a sweaty 2009 show with Los Campesinos! at the old Walters, when it was still a thriving venue on Washington. I'm not sure what took TA so long to play here again, but that didn't matter. It was just nice to have them back in town.
It's hard to really describe TA's sound. It touches on punk, specifically with Stickles' vocal approach, but their music has a pretty straightforward indie-rock vibe, with an occasional harmonica thrown in for good measure. It all fits into a musical melee onstage with bottles flying, the crowd getting rowdy and the music not stopping until they were cut off an eyelash before 2 a.m.
Their set saw a few singalongs, a lot of fist-pumping and even more moshing than earlier during The So So Glos. Stickles was definitely dealing with voice issues, which led TA to cancel their Dallas performance the night before, but that didn't stop him from shouting his way through "In a Big City," "A More Perfect Union" and "Titus Andronicus Forever."
They closed with a medley of songs which started with a humorous, yet surprisingly spot-on version of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll," followed by a rambunctious cover of the Beasties' "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" featuring the guys from the So So Glos. After a few parting words from Stickles, they finished with a reading of Billy Bragg's "To Have Andto Have Not," which sounded much more Rancid than Bragg, and brought down the proverbial house.
After spending more than three hours of my Friday with Titus Andronicus, for some reason I still wanted more. I hope another four years doesn't go by until they land in Houston again.
Personal Bias: They are one of those bands, that despite maybe a few musical and vocal shortcomings, just continue to bring their best -- specifically live, but also on record. I'll always love and respect a band like that. I'm a Phish fan if that explains where I'm coming from.
The Crowd: The usual hipster fare.
Overheard In the Crowd: "This country will live forever or die by suicide"
Random Notebook Dump: Stickles seems like a person I'd like to hang out with -- for one night -- and then not see again for a very long period of time. That night would be so fucking awesome, but you'd be ridiculously tired by the end of it that it would take forever to recuperate.
TITUS ANDRONICUS SET LIST
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A Pot In Which to Piss Upon Viewing Bruegel's "Landscape With the Fall of Icarus" Richard II In a Big City Still Life With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter The Dog No Future Part One No Future Part Two: The Day After No Future No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future A More Perfect Union Joset of Nazareth's Blues Titus Andronicus The Battle of Hampton Roads Titus Andronicus Forever I Love Rock and Roll (Joan Jett cover) No Sleep Till Brooklyn (Beastie Boys cover) [with The So So Glos] To Have And To Have Not (Billy Bragg cover) [with The So So Glos]