Stickin' it to the man since 1927.
By Bill Janson
Patrick Stickles stands outside the UC smoking. He’s the entertaining front man for the New Jersey-based punk band Titus Andronicus, which has just finished its two-hour set at The Grind. His eyes are wide and intense. He has a beard (as black as the Batman tee he’s wearing) that would rival Lincoln’s.
Around him, a circle of fans listens to his every word. “You won’t always be this young,” says the twenty-five year old, between drags of his cigarette.
Since their formation in 2005, Titus Andronicus has garnered a reputation for putting on a good live show. Any Clarkies at their March 27th performance, will attest that their reputation is very deserved.
The five-piece played tight, energetic punk to the excited Sunday night crowd not even one hundred strong. Distorted guitars, crashing drums and even an electric violin assisted in the rambunctious sing-alongs and epic anthems that owned the night.
But Stickles is the show-stealer. His youthful energy seems boundless, as he lurches around the stage, jumping up on the bass drum for his guitar solo, or grabbing someone from the crowd to shout lyrics into his face, all between furtive drags of his blue-glow-tipped electronic cigarette. His scratchy vocals are shouted not sung, and that’s how it should be.
To sing over the controlled chaos that is Titus Andronicus is impossible without such reckless abandon when it comes to vocal melody. It’s a delivery style that works wonders, especially during repetitive shout-chant-alongs like show opener “No Future Part III” where he (and everyone) sings over and over, “You’ll always be a loser.”
His banter between songs is nearly as entertaining as the songs themselves as he regularly holds conversations with audience members, tells jokes and, at least at this show, he promoted some of the band’s merchandise, especially the new Titus Andronicus tote-bags or as he called them, “Tote-us Andronicus.”
In addition to a Clash and Ramones cover thrown in, Titus culled songs from each of their two albums, 2008’s The Airing of Grievances and last year’s critically acclaimed Civil War concept album, The Monitor. Among the fan-favorites performed on Sunday were “Four Score and Seven,” “Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ,” and “A More Perfect Union.”
On the melancholic intro to “Four Score and Seven,” Stickles sings, “When they see the kind of person that you really are/ Then you won’t be laughing so hard.” It looks like a reprimand but sounds like a hug and he’s right: nothing, no matter how good, lasts forever. And you never see the end coming.
Of course, smoking with a small group of fans outside the delivery entrance to the UC, he’s also right: we won’t always be this young. But, at least for a couple of hours, Stickles and Titus Andronicus, with their vigor, enthusiasm and crowd-uniting choruses, helped everyone feel like they would live forever. And though we won’t always be laughing so hard, he gave us a good reason to laugh now.