Titus Andronicus at the Jackpot
Looking back on Tuesday night’s Titus Andronicus show at the Jackpot, nonthing from the band really stands out. It’s really unfortunate, but when I try and think back to the group’s performance, I only recall quite a few guitars all going at once. If I try and recall a particular song, the only thing that comes to mind is Japandroids’ “The House That Heaven Built.”
Titus Andronicus is a great bar band, but much like every time I’ve listened to one of their records, they just don’t leave a lasting impression musically. I’ve probably heard their Monitor album a dozen times, and any time I try and recall the particulars, I’m left rather open mouthed, head cocked to the side, eyes rolled up into my head as I attempt to draw comparisons other than Bruce Springsteen.
It’s not that the group’s untalented. I was fist-pumping and tapping my toes, fairly bopping as I went back and forth from one side of the stage to the other snapping photos. They’re a great time, and energetic and intense as all hell, but the inevitable finale to any encounter with the music of Titus Andronicus is, for me, pretty unremarkable. They’re pleasant enough, but I’m at a loss as to the fervent fanaticism they attract.
Nor was Ceremony much better, at least to start. For a quartet that’s so tightly wound on album, their live show was a shambolic wreck, barely held together at the seams. Ceremony took their time taking the stage, and once there, the band immediately launched into “Hysteria,” the first track from their most recent LP, Zoo.
It seemed as if vocalist Ross Farrar was a twitching, nervous mess. He was twisting up his t-shirt, at times covering his face with it, at other times bringing the mic up under it to sing with his face covered. He warmed to performance as the set went on, but the band seemed as if they were almost unwilling to be on stage.
Ceremony’s set warmed up a bit as it went along, getting a little tighter and less functionally fucked-up toward the end. I’m all for nervous, tightly-wound hardcore with a frontman who seems like he might collapse as a bundle of nerves by the end of the set, heaven knows. However, when the band is simultaneously near collapse, it gets a little hard to enjoy.
In the end, though, it’s cathartic to watch a band like Ceremony teeter on the edge of catastrophe, only to repeatedly snatch itself back from the precipice over and over, however. There’s a sense of release that comes with the relief of seeing them succeed in taking a song that sounds as if it’s coming apart and bring it together into a triumphant conclusion.
St. Joseph’s young scions of rock ‘n’ roll Radkey have come a long way since I saw them open for Fishbone a year and a half ago. Where they were once nervous, timid kids, they’ve become a full-on rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse. Brothers all, guitarist Dee and bassist Isaiah trade off vocals, occasionally harmonizing in a way that immediately grabs your attention.
In all the articles about the boys (and they are boys — I don’t think any can legally buy a lottery ticket yet), youngest brother Solomon seems to get ignored. The drummer’s not the most exciting member of any trio, usually, and he’s unable to strike the poses his odler siblings frequently do. Yet, standing in the audience and watching him watch them and matching their changes instantly, he’s a natural. He’s the Charlie Watts of this rock ‘n’ roll band, and much like that solid gentleman, he’s the rock on which these guys rest.
These three kids have great chops: “Mind Ride” and “Cat & Mouse” make me wish I had the money to put out a single for Radkey (it’d be a double-A side). Radkey’s gigged in Lawrence quite a bit recently (this is the second time I’ve seen them this month), and I’d hate to see them burn out or become less of a draw. Too many bands have burned white-hot and disappeared before they really had a chance to seize the chances they deserved. Hopefully, they’ll take a rest soon to recharge their batteries.