Concert Reviews

Titus Andronicus at Larimer Lounge, 11/19/12


This was one of those shows where you couldn't tell which band people were there to see. Even when the faces changed up front, the energy level was equally as charged for both outfits. It's rare to see and experience the the type of visceral reaction both acts received. Was it because the show was for ages sixteen and over? If so, we need to have more shows like this in which passive observation is the anomaly.

See also: - Interview: Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus on rock and roll re-appropriation - Interview: Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus talks bagpipes, Bright Eyes and the Boss - Interview: Anthony Anzaldo of Ceremony on the unlikely influence of Prince

Ceremony got things started off with the blistering "Sick." Surrounded by people singing and yelling along with every word, arms raised and fist pumping with complete abandon, Ross Farrar pulled fans toward him as he sang close to the crowd at the edge of the stage. Ceremony got this type of fervent reaction throughout much of its set. If there was any song that everyone didn't know the words to, it was hard to tell. Folks seemed to have absorbed the band's lyrics like this was a band whose music they grew up with and held close to their hearts with an enthusiastic zeal.

"World Blue" went off like a bolt of lightning with its cutting riffs. People surged toward the stage most of the show and many crowd surfed or did stage dives -- to the extent that you can at the Larimer Lounge -- and many times when Farrar came to the front of the stage, he shared the mike with the audience. At one point, a clutch of hyper-enthusiastic guys acting like it was NYHC '88 or something seemed bent on prying the mike away from Farrar because they knew the song so well.

Ceremony is one of those bands that is playing something akin to hardcore with the same sort of emotional affect. Last night, it was like folks set aside whatever inhibitions they had in everyday life for the moment and let Anthony Anzaldo's guitar sound strike a nerve as Farrar surrendered himself fully to the moment. Toward the end, the band played "Everything Burns" from its split 7-inch with Titus Andronicus, and, though fairly new, people knew those words by heart, too. You can't help but be impressed by any band that instills that kind of fandom and loyalty.

If Ceremony didn't exactly hold back, neither did Titus Andronicus during its sixteen song set. Although it pulled material from across its career, Titus played a great deal from its latest record, Local Business, including a rousing version of "In a Big City" and its swipes at personal failings and social sacred cows. Even in songs where the words ramble in inspired detail, Patrick Stickles made it seem like it was easy to turn what could be awkward emotional outbursts and musings into punkified rock and roll literature.

One lyrical strategy Stickles made great use of was to repeat one line and then tag it with the context at the end like a punch line of a self-deprecating joke: Like in "No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future," when he nearly chanted "You will always be a loser" multiple times with the audience before finishing the song off with, "And that's okay." Somewhere in the last half of the set, Stickles set down his guitar and just sang. At one point he went to the front of the stage and balanced himself precariously on the monitors while people half surrounded him and sang along like they'd written the song with him.

During "(I am the) Electric Man," a number of people upped the ante on an already elevated level of excitement, and for those who didn't know the song, Stickles encouraged us to sing the chorus anyway, because, well, it wasn't difficult to figure out. Before the music clattered out, Stickles said, "I gotta know, do you love me?" Propelled by the crowd's response, the band went right into an energetic cover of an already energetic "Do You Love Me?" as done by The Contours.

At the end of the show, the members of the band were drenched in sweat, and some guy yelled out "Maxwell's," presumably referring to the small, legendary Hoboken, New Jersey rock club. Stickles misheard him and thought he said, "Fastball." Even though Stickles cleared it up with the guy, he said, "This next one is by Fastball," as the group went into "The Battle of Hampton Roads."

The band drew that song out in the most beautifully self-indulgent manner possible, including an interlude in which Stickles manipulated his pedals to create a melodic line that the rest of the band built upon for several moments, before he took up the guitar again, and all five of the guys rocked out the end in a classic fashion.


Personal Bias: To me, these two bands embody what punk rock could be (and should be) most of the time.

Random Detail: Some guy at the show who raged quite a bit during the Ceremony set was wearing a Negative Degree T-shirt. Any time anyone sports a local hardcore band's T-shirt at a show like this is a good thing.

By the Way: Is it just me, or have a lot of these bands with clear roots and/or origins in punk become incredibly good lately?

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.