text by Jacob Webb and Anna McClain
Punk rock met punctual this afternoon during KEXP’s live broadcast at MusicFest NW. Only in Portland will you find hoards of people lined up to descend into the cave that is the Doug Fir on a rare beautiful day. As fans were still filtering in, New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus took the stage at noon on the dot.
Named for Shakespeare’s first tragedy, Titus Andronicus attack the idea of what it means to be punk with an earnest fervency while still holding down a DIY ethic that would surely make Ian MacKaye proud. Although they are led by the band’s sole consistent member, singer/guitarist Patrick Stickles, Titus Andronicus has never felt like a solo project; each release and tour heralds a new phase for band. For example, the tour for 2010’s epic The Monitor included a violinist, yet the current tour lineup behind last year’s relatively more modest Local Business is a leaner, guitar-based group. Now in the early stages of crafting a new record, which is reportedly going to be a 30-song rock opera detailing Stickles’ life, the group is road testing new material, some of which hints at a new level of ambition for the grandiosity-loving band.
After deciding that they could deal with the on-air “no swearing” policy, Stickles, wearing a Titus shirt, and his band plunged into their first track “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus.”
Notorious for their seven and eight minute long songs, Stickles joked that since they always seem to have “limited time and a lot to say,” the new album would feature shorter songs, like “Look Alive,” which lasted all of 30 seconds. Titus Andronicus exploded through their short tracks, moving on to similarly titled “Look-alike.”
Staying right on schedule, the group ended their set with fan favorite “A More Perfect Union.” The crowd was jumping, jabbing their fists around and self-inducing whiplash during Stickles’ guitar solo and impervious to the shower of spit raining down upon them from Stickles’ mouth. You have to wonder how these fans will go about the rest of their day once they resurface into the daylight. Hopefully they’ll shrug off the real world for a little longer and stick around for the rest of our MFNW shows today, including The Dodos, The Thermals and Sonny & the Sunsets.