This is actually the fiftieth gig review of mine that I have posted on this blog, and it is nice to see that it is about a band, Titus Andronicus, that I knew very little about before deciding to go to see them, but one that I enjoyed very much on the night. And it was at the wonderful, soon-to-be-much-missed Kazimier.
To continue the round-numbered milestones, this was in fact the 25th gig I have been to at the Kaz, which considering I’ve lived in the city for more than seven years and it’s the best venue in town, is actually a surprisingly low number.
Those who know me will not be surprised to learn that I can reveal where that places the Kaz in my all-time list of gig venues been to most often – in third, but it will overtake The Leadmill in Sheffield (26 gigs, 25 of which came in the space of three years as a student) by the end of the year as I have three more trips planned.
However, it looks like Shepherd’s Bush Empire will remain top with 38 gigs for several decades if not forever…
It was tipping it down with rain as I left the house, but fortunately the conditions had improved for my quick march from Central station up to the Dispensary for a quick pint before heading back down the hill to get into the Kaz in advance of the support act.
Before the band came on, I had the pleasure of hearing the DJ playing some of Sonic Youth’s deathless classic 1988 album Daydream Nation, which has got me psyched up to dig it out again for another spin – to my ears the finest of their many great albums.
Immediate disclaimer: while their anthemic sound seems fit for your favourite rain-battered festival, they really just weren’t for me, though I can well imagine them becoming pretty big names in an album or two’s time.
The drummer looked like a cross between Sean Lennon and J. Mascis, while the lead guitarist had a touch of the young Peter Hook about him. The second guitarist and the lead singer both stood in the classic John Lennon legs apart stance, with the bassist rather obtusely side-on, and high slung.
They showed a bit of inventiveness in the use of a screwdriver to play the guitar on a couple of songs, while Petrograd featured some golden Felt/Durutti Column-esque guitar, although overall it came across as a ballsier Coldplay. You decide if that’s a good thing.
The highlight for me was probably the perky and spiky We Are All Going To Die, while the set closed with Tongues, dedicated to a young lad called Lou who had apparently been to five of the gigs on this tour.
The beer choice was pretty shocking so I succumbed to a can of Red Stripe, before enjoying some more Sonic Youth (the opening few tracks from 1992’s Dirty album) from the DJ as anticipation of the main event ramped up.
Titus Andronicus started with just two on stage, lead singer Patrick Stickles and Elio DeLuca on keyboards, with the other four members of the band (drummer Eric Harm, Julian Veronesi on bass and guitarists Adam Reich and Jonah Maurer) joining them part-way through the opening Neil Young-influenced track Four Score And Seven, from 2010’s second album The Monitor.
I had decided to go to this gig on the back of the excellent reviews their fourth album The Most Lamentable Tragedy received earlier this year. This double concept album is a fine piece of work that has slowly wormed its way into my affections.
It’s kind of a punk album, but with a lot more variety to the music than that suggests, even including covers of songs by The Pogues and Daniel Johnston, showing good taste. Patrick’s harmonica enlivened the sound on a few tracks, while overall the band most reminded me of Guided By Voices meets Drive-By Truckers with a dash of The Clash.
The first track I recognised was Fatal Flaw, one of the real highlights of the latest album, and to be honest, one of only a few songs I could definitely place on the night, although that barely impacted on my overall enjoyment. Post-gig googling revealed that they scattered old and new songs throughout their set, reaching all the way back to 2008’s debut The Airing Of Grievances.
The band made me imagine the cast of an imaginary low-grade American sitcom, perhaps set in a hardware store, with Patrick the clear leader as he was by far the most charismatic amongst them.
After another set peak, Fired Up from the new album, they nodded to the city’s history by performing a top cover of The Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There. They apparently did likewise in Manchester, covering Oasis, but reached for Bruce Springsteen in Brighton! Why no 14 Iced Bears, I ask myself…
They disappeared up the stairs for quite a while, fortunately returning for an encore (that I could not recognise), with most of the very disappointingly sparse crowd (perhaps a hundred?) eagerly lapping up another tune. Yes, another top night at the Kaz.
I went with my red Guided By Voices tee, which seemed ever more appropriate as the night wore on. There were a few other band t-shirts in evidence, including a U.K. Subs one sported by a guy that I’m pretty sure I spotted wearing one from the same band at The Pop Group at the same venue back in May (see my review here which even mentions that t-shirt). The only other one I managed to identify was Johnny Cash though.
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Here is some of the music from the night on Spotify: