Okkervil River w/ Titus Andronicus, Future Islands
Tuesday, June 7
Better than: Being forced to go home any earlier, even with a book in each hand.
Halfway through Okkervil River’s newest album I Am Very Far lies a song called “We Need a Myth.” “We need a myth,” Okkervil frontman Will Sheff sings, “a path through the mist.” What that myth might be is never specified, and nor should it be. Instead of explanation—or the knowingly clever linguistic exercises found on songs like The Stage Names‘s “Plus Ones”—Sheff’s songwriting on Very Far is more descriptive and abstract. The second line of “We Need a Myth,” for instance, introduces the image of an “amethyst bridge”; the second verse presents a red ribbon “to reconnect/ The lady’s head to her neck/ And to forget that her throat was ever slit.”
This may sound a bit melodramatic for some (and, yeah, fair enough), but for those who don’t mind theatrics mixed into their indie rock, Terminal 5 was a great place to be last night. Before Okkervil, Titus Andronicus tore through forty minutes of mosh-inducing punk, most of which was taken from 2010’s The Monitor. Like the headliners, much of Titus’s music rests on myth, but while Okkervil River find their source material in the English department (where, perhaps, a professor a two might be able to the name the author whose short story inspired the group’s name) Titus look to the history books, with The Monitor drawing, then connecting, the dots between Ulysses S. Grant and Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash.
The group began their set by leading a chant of “You will always be a loser” (from “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future”), and ended it by leading a chant of “It’s still us against them” (“Four Score and Seven”). The band scattered a few more rousing yell-alongs amid the crescendos, breakdowns and guitar solos.
Although the dispersion of the pit that had gathered for Titus’s set may have suggested otherwise, Okkervil River came out firing, their rhythm section playing hard and tight. They worked through two new songs and two old songs before slowing it down for a performance of “A Girl in Port” worthy of a season-two O.C. episode’s climax.
Later, the apocalyptic I Am Very Far opener “The Valley” was played with such force that it made me wonder if the show might end afterwards. The rhythm section again led the charge, with Sheff joining in for some his best guitar work of the night. (Even the lights seemed to step up their game.) Another possible set-closer, “John Allyn Smith Sails,” followed, but the band marched onwards until Terminal 5’s staff informed them that they had to wrap things up.
Despite having been onstage for an hour and half, Sheff announced that the band had “so many more songs we wanted to play” before concluding, “This fucking sucks.” He wasn’t wrong—Titus’s chant of “it’s still us against them” could apply here—but given that his band had already surpassed my expectations and were finishing things up with The Stage Names standout “Unless It’s Kicks,” I couldn’t really complain.
Critical bias: This is the second time I’ve seen Titus, and the second time venue security has forced the show to end.
Overheard: Earlier in the day I told a couple of friends about the show; they were excited about the artists, but dejected when I told them where it was happening.
Okkvervil River set list
White Shadow Waltz
A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene
A Girl in Port
Wake and Be Fine
John Allyn Smith Sails
So Come Back, I Am Waiting
Your Past Life as a Blast
Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe
Unless It’s Kicks