A Look at Titus Andronicus

Nicky Hug

In 2010, Titus Andronicus released a civil-war themed album The Monitor, to praises and critical-acclaim. The tour that followed, however, defined the band as the live act of the year. Unable to truly reproduce the album live, Titus Andronicus relied on pure energy and heart in their shows, leading the crowd in countless shout-a-longs.

Earlier this year, Patrick Stickles took to Tumblr to announce their third LP, Local Business. In the tumblr, he explains how “Titus Andronicus the studious recording project and Titus Andronicus the raucous touring machine are no longer two distinct beings; there is only Titus Andronicus, rock and roll band.” The album that followed was a 10-song barrage of fist-pumping punk-rock, with anthem-esque lyrics that are introspective and thoughtful. This follows in line with their first two albums; Titus Andronicus has always managed to make punk-rock an extremely insightful genre, thanks to Stickles’ lyrics. On the latest album, Stickles deals with a range of topics: eating disorders, life in a city, life’s absence of worth, and a car accident on a freeway. However, he deals with these topics in a way that lends itself directly to a live-setting. Take “My Eating Disorder”. The song deals with Stickles’ personal struggle with selective eating disorder. After 10 verses detailing a very personal topic, the song breaks down into a few minutes of Stickles shouting “spit it out, spit it out,” a chant that wouldn’t feel out of place being shouted by a roomful of sweaty concert-goers.

A few Monday nights ago, I finally got to see Titus Andronicus live up at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. After two extremely loud opening punk bands, my ears were almost shot. During the second of the opening bands, Ceremony, a half-mosh pit broke out, but the most concerning thing for me was the lack of quality vocals. I was fearful that it was the venue itself that was muffling the vocals. With Titus Andronicus being such a lyrically-based band, this could’ve been a problem, but luckily when Stickles and Co. started in on their opening song, Ecce Homo, off of Local Business, the first lines “Okay, I think by now we’ve established / Everything is inherently worthless / And there’s nothing in the Universe / With any kind of objective purpose” sounded as clear as they do on the album. What followed was 90-or-so minutes of pure unbridled punk-rock. The Great American Music Hall provided a fantastic venue as it crammed all the fans into a small location where they were forced to be pushed up against the stage. There was a constant half-mosh pit, half-rushing the stage attitude going through the crowd, a vibe which the band fed off of. Stickles was constantly bantering with the audience and one of the guitarists attempted a crowd-surf later in the show. With few calm songs in their repertoire (most of which result in a loud anthem anyways), each one was a breath of relief.

The end of the show came sometime around midnight. The band walked offstage and was done. No amount of cheering, or shouting of their name brought them back on. But really, nothing else needed to be said. They hadn’t saved any energy for an encore. As Stickles walked offstage, he looked as sweaty and spent as any of the people in the mosh pit who had spent the past hour and a half bouncing into other sweaty people. I think that is what makes the difference. While I wouldn’t say Titus Andronicus is the best live act I’ve ever seen (that spot is still held by The Flaming Lips), they put the most heart into their show than any other band I’ve seen. You can feel their love and devotion to their art, the emotion and truths behind Stickles’ lyrics as he shouts them into a microphone. This complete dedication to music and performance is what makes Titus Andronicus a must-see band, and one I will see whenever I get the chance.

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