Northside 2014: Titus Andronicus, Eagulls, D'NT, Low Fat Getting High
Titus Andronicus via the artist
Brooklyn, New York -- The first day of this year’s Northside Festival was injected with the spirit of rock 'n roll at Warsaw in the form of hyper-literate New Jersey punks Titus Andronicus. Melodic British punks Eagulls and distortion-heavy rockers Low Fat Getting High and D’NT joined them in a fantastic night of loud drums and fast guitars.
Low Fat Getting High
From watching their set, I’m assuming these were the two requirements for joining Low Fat Getting High: you love Nirvana, and you can play fast with your hair in your face. Every song felt less than two minutes, followed by a minute of each member of the grunge-trio moving pushing piles of hair out of their eyes.
The Nirvana influence was clear in a variety of ways. A lot of their songs sounded like they could be “Bleach” b-sides. On at least two occasions, I was sure they were going to launch into a cover of “Negative Creep.” Additionally, the drummer’s style was very Dave Grohl-ish, and the way the guitarist/singer held and played his guitar looked a lot like how Kurt Cobain did. Overall, Low Fat Getting High was a fun and energetic start to Northside 2014’s opening night.
D’NT’s name is pronounced, “don’t,” as in “Don’t choose a band name with all capital letters and unnecessary punctuation.” Even if they broke two of the cardinal rules of band-naming, D’NT performed a solid set. Like Low Fat Getting High, D’NT worshipped at the altar of distortion. Even with only guitar and drums, the NYC duo made a lot of noise. In addition to their grungy sound, the minimalist set-up gave the band a significant Local H-feel.
As with Low Fat Getting High, the drummer was a lot of fun to watch. At one point mid-song, he got up from his kit to start playing the drum set behind him, which was reserved for Eagulls and Titus Andronicus. His welcomed drumming shenanigans were the highlight of D’NT’s set.
Before the show started, one of the bouncers asked a girl standing by the stage who was going to be playing throughout the night. When she mentioned Eagulls, he got excited for a split-second at the prospect that he might get to hear “Hotel California.” He of course immediately realized Eagulls were not his Eagles, but I like to think he still had hope Don Henley would show up, or at least an Eagles cover band. You can stab that dream with a steely knife, but you just can’t kill the beast. Anyway, back to the show.
After two distortion-heavy sets, Eagulls steered the night in a cleaner direction. While the rhythm section played straight up punk, the lead guitarist indulged in some more echoing, dreamlike sounds, creating a band that was equal parts The Clash and The Cure.
While lead singer George Mitchell mostly sang with his eyes closed and his head cocked to one side, lead guitarist Mark Goldsworthy was pretty interesting to watch. At one point he brought out one of those hand-held battery-powered fans, and then used that to play his guitar. Shredding with every-day objects is one of those moves that never gets old.
Titus Andronicus feel like a real “rock n’ roll” band in a way that not many bands do nowadays. Their music feels classic, but not in a way that feels like a retread. They’ve created a wholly original vision built on the sounds of the punks and rockers before them, and the result is one of the best bands of the new millennium.
They’re also one of the best live bands playing today, as evidenced by their headlining show at Warsaw. Their 90-minute set was full of energy, passion, and old-fashioned ass-kicking punk rock, and the crowd matched them in kind. During set’s opener, “Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ,” the crowd stood respectfully during the song’s quiet beginning before going absolutely insane when lead singer Patrick Stickles yelled its signature expletive. After that moment, neither the band nor the crowd let up.
In addition to classic Titus tracks like “A More Perfect Union” and “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future,” the band broke out a new song from their upcoming fourth album, which is apparently going to be a five-part rock opera. That may sound super pretentious, but so did a concept album set in the Civil War intercut with commentary on modern-day life in New Jersey, and The Monitor turned out to be one of the best albums of the last fifteen years.
The new song shared some of the more prog-y elements of “My Eating Disorder,” off of Titus’ latest album, Local Business, but like “My Eating Disorder,” it stayed true to the band’s punk spirit.
Toward the end of the set, Titus pulled out a rambunctious cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” proving that they could probably just play an entire set of covers and it would still be tons of fun. They also played what seemed like an impromptu cover of Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” It was also the only time in history any band has played a non-ironic cover of that song.
After closing with the 14-minute “The Battle of Hampton Roads,” Stickles played with his guitar pedals for another few minutes, put on a sweatshirt and his backpack, thanked the audience, and then left the stage. The house lights came on, indicating that there would be no encore, but that was just fine. After an hour and a half of pure rocking, the crowd was more than satisfied. With their set at Warsaw, Titus Andronicus set a high bar for the rest of the Northside Festival to reach.
Follow @jsjohnson22 on Twitter