Ten Years Of Free Ted Leo Shows In NYC: A Brief Retrospective


You’re forgiven for wondering if the Sound Of The City is really just a gussied-up Ted Leo fansite, but we argue that’s the only natural reaction to his glorious existence. Ted Leo is many things: insightful songwriter; leave-it-all-on-the-stage performer; great interview subject. But above all, Ted Leo is a man of the people. If you’re totally broke, he has your back. As he’s written, “For a long time, I’ve tried to do a free outdoor show here at home, in New York City, every summer.” Saturday evening will see another as Ted Leo and his trusty band of Pharmacists, as well as fellow Jersey punks the Screaming Females, take the stage at the Village Voice‘s 4Knots Music Festival Kickoff at Pier 17 on the South Street Seaport.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Ted’s outdoor tradition, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists will do a full-length performance of their 2001 debut The Tyranny Of Distance. (Just don’t call it a nostalgia thing.) After many years in various punk groups and an experimental solo debut, Distance introduced the Ted Leo template we know and love today, and it helped inject politics, soulful singing and punk for people too old for the Warped Tour into the early aught-music scene. To celebrate 10 years of free shows, we searched the internet for four of the best moments from his annual outdoor outings.

1. “Stove By A Whale” (2003, South Street Seaport)

A selection from the Dirty Old Town DVD, and a reminder that a little thing like a city-wide blackout isn’t going to stop Ted from doing what he came to do.

2. “Anunciation Day/Born On Christmas Day” and “Bomb Repeat Bomb” (2007, McCarren Pool)

Sigh, the McCarren Pool free shows. Too beautiful for this world and too awesome for people who want something as ridiculous as a public pool when there’s rock to be had. Anyway, enjoy this nostalgia for the recent past, and contemplate how happy the band look when they’re joined by a booty-shaking dancer.

3. “The Mighty Sparrow” (2010, Siren Festival)

As someone who was at this show and remembered how hot it was, Ted’s long-sleeve black shirt is a bit of a puzzler. But this song is still awesome. And by the way, we’re still willing to pay top dollar (read: we’ll buy you a Coke) for footage of Marissa from the Screaming Females guesting on “Woke Up Near Chelsea.”

4. “Biomusicology” (2006, South Street Seaport)

Another highlight from Tyranny. Worth a view for the ringing guitar break alone.


The 4Knots Music Festival Kickoff show, with Ted Leo and Screaming Females, takes place on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the South Street Seaport’s Pier 17.