Saturday, March 6
OK, so–in retrospect, no surprise that The Monitor, the messiest, most convoluted and ambitious concept-album cum punk-opera since American Idiot (if not Sandinista!), doesn’t exactly translate seamlessly to a Bowery Ballroom stage. Even less so with Titus Andronicus, the band that made the record, at the controls: chief songwriter, mouthpiece, and all-around firebrand frontman Patrick Stickles noted more than once that two of the five members of his band had only joined within the quintet’s last three shows; as for bassist Ian Graetzer, well–“He just did our taxes,” Stickles boasted. The point being that the band and their shockingly good sophomore record boil down to one guy, and god forbid if he’s been drinking or nervous or whatever else.
Which is not to say he was, though there was something perverse about kicking off the triumphant, album-release party on Saturday night with anything but “A More Perfect Union,” the song that leads off The Monitor and pretty much encapsulates everything great–New Jersey, Springsteen-references, endlessly melodic guitar parts, Civil War traditionals, etc.–about the record. Instead we got a dirgy “A Pot in Which to Piss” and some ska riffs. Stickles knew it too: “In the immortal words of Cheap Trick,” he said a few songs in, finally getting around to the place he should’ve started, “this is the first song on our new album.”
Was it all the 16-year-olds crowded in past their bedtimes? Even as the band took the stage a little after midnight, the youth vibe (and mosh pit) was heavy in the room, and by 1:30 a.m., it was hard to tell if the Bowery was half cleared out because of the band’s wobbly set or because mom just wasn’t gonna wait outside in the minivan for even a minute longer. That was right around when Stickles serenaded his own band with the Replacements’ “Treatment Bound,” a moment well-chosen and heartfelt enough to redeem an evening’s worth of alternating miscues and authentically ragged, anthemic sing-a-longs (the full-band us-against-them last stand at the end of “Four Score and Seven” was everything the similar-type thing at the end of “No Future Part Three,” earlier in the night, wasn’t). “We’re going on tour on Monday,” Stickles said to the uncertain looking four people flanking him onstage, “and I really think it’s going to be the greatest time of our lives.” Who could doubt it?