Friday night was an eclectic one at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Taking the headline were Austin indie-folk juggernaut Okkervil River and along for the ride were New Jersey punk rockers Titus Andronicus and Baltimore new-wave trio Future Islands.
Before buying tickets for this show I hadn’t heard Titus Andonicus or Future Islands, but I did my homework and found myself thoroughly digging openers Future Islands most recent album In Evening Air. The thing that really got me into these guys was the singers rough and ragged voice, I think of it as Tom Waits singing new-wave.
Live the singer threw even more emotion into his broken growls and I liked it even better. While the other two members on guitar and keys didn’t move much the fontman’s energy mostly made up for then. I wasn’t sure if he was man or beast as he prowled around the stage like a caged and angry silverback gorilla. The crowd didn’t take to them as much as I would have liked, but I really enjoyed their set and you can see a couple of videos I took of their song Long Flight and In The Fall.
When Titus Andronicus took the stage however the crowd finally let loose. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a punk band live and I must admit I loved the energy these guys brought to their live show. (It made me nostalgic for my younger punk days in high school and I’ve spent all evening listening to my old “favourite band” for many years Bad Religion). I first heard of these guys in a Pitchfork album review for their latest record The Monitor and the opening line pretty much sums them up: “Modern indie rock generally treats emotion as something that should be guarded or disguised. The Monitor does not subscribe to this viewpoint. On their second album, New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus split the emotional atom“. If that holds true for their record, then it applies thrice over to their live performance.
Titus Andonicus blasted through an energetically raw set proudly wearing their hearts on their sleeves, and the crowd ate it up. I was particularly taken by their lead guitarist who was possibly the happiest woman I’ve ever seen rocking out live. She didn’t stop jumping the entire set, and she also sported a mean violin power stance.
In fact women rocking out on the guitar was a bit of a theme for the evening which continued into headliners Okkervil River’s set. When Will Sheff and company took the stage they had the crowd from the get go and didn’t let up for an hour and a half of hyper-literate folk-rock goodness. They played several new songs for their current album I Am Very Far along with a whole lot of crowd favourites from their earlier records.
I must confess to not being a devoted Okkervil fan, I first heard them on The Stand Ins and only casually worked my way as far back as Black Sheep Boy. So while I’ve enjoyed their music I’m not intimately familiar with their catalogue. However if you were a much more loyal fan you wouldn’t have been disappointed. My friend Kim who is such a person described it as the best show she had seen all year. I thought she was going to explode with excitement at several points. While I can’t agree with her on the best show of the year claim, I will concede that it was a damn good one none the less.
Okkervil River’s Setlist
1. White Shadow Waltz
2. A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene
5. A Girl in Port
6. Wake and Be Fine
8. The Valley
9. John Allyn Smith Sails
10. A Stone
11. So Come Back, I Am Waiting
12. Your Past Life as a Blast
13. For Real
14. Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe
15. Lost Coastlines
2. Unless It’s Kicks