Underground Arts is a funky space, but they get great bands and I’ve been there quite a few times. It has two rooms, a larger one in the front, and a smaller room in the back that is now called the Black Box. Most bands I have seen at UA have been in the front room, but Protomartyr played the Black Box. I was a bit surprised to read that Titus Andronicus would be playing the Black Box, but figured, hey, that’s cool, it’s intimate and we’ll have a good spot to see the show right under the stage lighting. I should have known better.
Titus is the brainchild of Patrick Stickles, a New Jersey dude who loves punk and Springsteen, and who writes some of the most intellectual rock music out there today. Ryan turned me on to Titus a few years back as he knows that, despite my mature age, I’m still a punk rocker at my core. This was our third opportunity to see Titus together. The first time was at Union Transfer following the release of Titus’s magnificent 3-disc set, The Most Lamentable Tragedy. That show just kicked ass, one of the best I’ve seen the past few years. Titus showed up with a 3 guitar attack, a keyboardist (unusual for a punk band) and a fantastic rhythm section. It was an amazing wall of sound that enhanced the great setlist that drew heavily from The Monitor, Local Business and The Most Lamentable Tragedy.
So when Titus returned later to the TLA, Ryan and I were there for that show, too. It was good, but the band had been slimmed down and wasn’t as tight as the previous iteration. Nonetheless, there were few complaints and we had another good night of punk rock entertainment.
Flash forward to Saturday night and the Black Box. The opener was Rick Maguire from Pile, who did the electric troubadour thing, you know, one guy and one electric guitar. That’s a challenge for even the most immensely talented. Rick’s voice and his song selection, however, left something to be desired, and we were all happy when he finally said the magic words of all opening acts: “this is my last song.” After Rick bailed, we moved up and had a great spot right in front of the stage. It was then that we noticed that there was no drum set, no bass guitar, and only two electrics and a keyboard. Oh well, we’ll see what this is like.
Here’s what it was like: a coin toss between Titus and Yo La Tengo for biggest disappointment of 2018. Patrick comes out on stage and welcomes us to the 2018 Titus Acoustic Tour, words which were mysteriously missing from all the posters and ads for the show. On stage was Patrick and a keyboardist and that was it. Worse, Titus’s new album isn’t that strong, and the show featured a number of tunes from it, along with slower versions of older (and better) Titus tracks.
I was never a big fan of the MTV Unplugged series, especially for heavy rockers like Nirvana, and Titus is another band that should never strip down the songs. They are best with high energy, high volume aural assaults that drive home the lyrics and tunefulness. Is it so hard to bring along a band and simply rock it on a Saturday night? Give the fans what they want – an AC/DC signature that bands should emulate. I know there were four dudes in the audience at this show that came away unsatisfied and disappointed. And 3 of us are core fans who will likely think twice about buying tickets the next time Titus rolls into town.
Despite the disappointing show, I did get some great pictures of Patrick. He is a good entertainer, and has a great wit and an easy way with the crowd. But he also gave me a rock ‘n roll first: I was close enough to the stage that Patrick was maybe 5 or 7 seven feet from me most of the time. That proximity was remarkable because I could smell his body odor from where I stood. From the first song, too, so he came up on stage like that. Say what? Dude, this isn’t Europe in the 60’s man, c’mon, take a shower and show some respect for your fellow human. For you in the cyber world, enjoy the pictures and be thankful that they don’t come with a scratch and sniff card.
I brought the Go Pro, but in true dumb-ass BRP fashion, I didn’t charge the thing after the last show. Unlike other cameras that only burn through the batteries when you turn the thing on, the Go Pro is basically always on, and if you don’t charge it you end up like me last Saturday night, carrying the thing around and not being able to use it. Apologies to all of you – I’ll try to remember where I left my brain next time, too. Oh, but here’s big news: the BRP YouTube channel got its first subscriber! I better send that dude a t-shirt. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you don’t know how cool it is, so wander over there and check out the content.
I need to look at my calendar and see what is up next. I know that Low Cut Connie is back in Philly in mid-May, and I’ve already got a pretty sizeable crew lined up for that one. King Tuff is going to tear up the First Unitarian Church that same week, and I’ll be there, too. I’ll likely catch former Stiff Records rock hero Wreckless Eric at Johnny Brenda’s the end of April, and Sheer Mag at UT. I’m a HUGE Sheer Mag fan – if you like to rock, check them out. If I’m around, I will want to see Parquet Courts again, too.
And lots of other shows have just been announced – it’s all calendar-dependent if you know what I mean. I’m getting to the point that I want bands to perform during the week because my weekends are already chock-full of stuff. Do you have that same problem? It’s a fabulous life we lead here in the USA, and oftentimes the choice is between two (or sometimes three) great options. I know that I’m going to be in the Hudson Valley checking out all the Hyde Park historical stuff the same night that the Weeks are playing at UA and that Marah is doing their thing at 118 North. Bummer to miss both of those fantastic acts, but it’s not like I won’t be having a great time doing something else way fun and cool. Nice problem to have, right?
Oh, and don’t forget that Wayne is going to hold their early summer music festival in June. I’ll give you fair warning on that one, but last year’s was really good. And did I mention it is FREE? Music played on a summer weekend in a relatively small outside space that naturally limits the crowd is wonderful. To have it be offered for FREE is a sure sign that the deity loves us humans.
I’m also trying to find a show in DC that would make for a compatible weekend road trip with the Cezanne exhibition going on at the National Gallery of Art. I love Cezanne’s work and was lucky enough to visit his former studio in Aix a few years ago. If I can combine that trip with a ripping night of rock, well, that’s a bonus, akin to having the Eagles win the Super Bowl and then Villanova win the NCAA tourney a month later.
Let me know if you have any shows you are going to see and I’ll try to accompany you – the benefits of hanging with a minor rock blogger are truly astounding. You’ll need to hang with me to find out the size and scale of these extras, so tell me about a show you are attending and I’ll be there. But please, no more unplugged shows, ok? Check you later.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.