Thursday, March 25, 2010

MONITOUR Spiel pt. 1, plus Manifest Destiny, plus MONITOUR Phase Three: "Farewell to the Star-Spangled Banner"

Hello, my little chickadees. Greetings from West End Espresso and Tea, a very fine coffee shop in the very fine little city of San Luis Obispo, CA. Today is day eighteen of the MONITOUR, which has proven to be every bit the magical adventure that we had been hoping it would be. There is much to cover, so let us not mince words. After all, brevity is the soul of wit, so here we go!

Firstly, it is with enormous excitement that we announce the MONITOUR fulfilling its destiny (its manifest destiny, as it were), for now we can finally declare that we have closed all the gaps in our schedule and made our "childish obsession with not taking days off," as my father calls it, a reality. The final shows added to the MONITOUR itinerary are as follows: On March 29th, we will be playing a house show at 540 Van Buren Street in Eugene, OR. Okay, great! Then, on April 3rd, and this is really fucking awesome, we will be playing at The Retired and Enlisted Association in Rapid City, SOUTH DAKOTA! That's right, baby - we are hitting both Dakotas on this tour. Rapid City is also a short twenty minutes from MOUNT RUSHMORE - hello!! That is going to be the bomb, even if it means two ten hour drives right in a row. Who cares, right? This puts the totality of the American MONITOUR at 54 shows in 48 days. You heard it here first, kids - taking it easy is totally bunk!

Yes, there is no doubt about it - America is a many-splendored paradise. Yet, though we love America the most, we acknowledge the needs of punks the world around to be entertained, and with that, it is our distinct pleasure to announce what will be the final leg of the MONITOUR, roughly two weeks of high-octane rock and roll madness on our second favorite continent, Europe, leading up to and including the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, which we have already heard about (remember? Pavement?). On this tour, we will be taking a couple of days off, because Europe is a huge and baffling continent. Those shows are as follows:

5/15/2010 - Utrecht, ND - Da Helling - Club Radar
5/16/2010 - Rotterdam, ND - Rotown
5/17/2010 - Amsterdam, ND - Bitterzoet (w/Surfer Blood)
5/18/2010 - Gent, Belgium - Charlatan
5/20/2010 - Paris, FR - La Fleche D'or
5/21/2010 - Liverpool, UK - Sound City Festival
5/22/2010 - Glasgow, UK - Stag and Dagger Festival
5/23/2010 - Leeds, UK - Cockpit 2
5/24/2010 - Manchester, UK - Ruby Lounge
5/25/2010 - London, UK - City and Arts Project

and of course...

5/27/2010 - Barcelona, Spain - Primavera Sound Festival w/ PAVEMENT

Okay, that sounds like it is gonna be a total gas! As is our way, we throw ourselves at yr feet, at the mercy of yr generosity, our European comrades, and ask that perhaps you consider inviting us over to yr house after the show to let us sleep on the floor. Europe is a nice continent, but yr hotels are soul-destroying. If I never set foot in another Etap again, it will be much too soon (although we have stayed at some nice ones in the Netherlands, admittedly). If you can find it in yr heart to assist us in this, we will gladly let you and yr friend come to the show for free. E-mail if you are interested.

Okay, so... what else is going on. As you may know, we began this tour by making a series of appearances in some of America's more admirable independent record stores, and that was a lot of fun. I gotta tell ya, when I was first told about this idea, I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. Historically, I have always hated playing in record stores - so awkward! I was pretty sure this whole record store trip was going to be pure punishment, but I am happy to admit that I was dead wrong - it was actually a ton of fun! Wheee! Here is us having some of that awesome fun at Ear X-Tacy in Louisville, KY, a great store, and workplace of the friendliest man who has ever lived, our new friend Sean. What up, Sean!!

Yeah, it was pretty fun, all right. Thanks to all the folks who came out to see us, and all the great people at all the stores for treating us with so much kindness and respect. Top drawer, everybody! Another awesome thing was, because we were mostly playing in the afternoon or early evening, our nights were free to do whatever we pleased. This usually meant going to bed at a reasonable hour, but when we were in Chicago, we delighted to learn that our old buddies Ted Leo and the Pharmacists were playing a concert! Thanks to those guys for getting us in and entertaining us so thoroughly. I also had the distinct honor of singing a couple songs with the band, another one of those things that would make my teenage brain explode. Here is the last song of the night, "Angelfuck" by the Misfits, a very appropriate thing since earlier that day, no less a reputable source than the New York Times published a very nice article about the state of indie rock and roll in New Jersey, using our two bands as subjects! Wow! The Misfits are from New Jersey too, you have to understand. Bon appetit:

There is another video floating around the internet of this same crew playing "Merchandise" by Fugazi with this guy named Ralph, but I shall not post that here because Ralph is a much better singer and dancer than myself. A quite similar scenario played itself out the following night in St. Louis, MO, where we played a last-minute, "secret" show with our buddies Deer Tick, starring erstwhile Titus Andronicus guitarist and once-and-future best bro Ian O'Neil. They generously invited me onstage with them to help sing "Authority Song" by John Mellancamp. It looked pretty much exactly like this:

We also played a couple of normal concerts, which were pretty cool too. One of those was in Athens, OH - here's a picture of us just pretty much hanging out there, because that is something which we really do. Hanging out, I mean.

Damn, that shit is real! We played in Tulsa, OK too, which was also cool. After the show, we stayed with some more super-nice acquaintances of ours, Bart and Emily, who were very accommodating, and whose company was extremely agreeable. Serious Titusheads will remember them as the people whose hamster we buried in Episode 4 of Titus TV, "Super Maximum Overdrive." They had a funny ash-tray man made out of a beer can and a bunch of bottle caps, who had a funny penis that could be revealed to hilarious effect. Look at this thing:

They also had a pretty badass tree fort out back, which you can see below, with Ian standing on it like a true king. Dust yr shoulders off, Ian!

So yeah, phase one of the MONITOUR pretty much went like that. Let us move on, then, to that event which indie rocks nationwide look forward to every year with the sort of feverish anticipation usually reserved for kiddies awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, TX (hereafter referred to simply as SXSW). We had a lot of fun at this conference last year, but this year was even more of a blast. Is it okay if I tell you all about it now? Okay, I will!

Perhaps the best way to understand our experience objectively would be to read this great article, written by our new friend Patrick Caldwell, which details the excruciating minutae of our daily lives, in this case, on the day of March the 18th. It ran the following day in the Austin Statesman, and there are some cool pictures for you to look at here.

Early that sweltering Texas morning, we had the opportunity to break bread with some of the brass up at Extra Large Recordings, including our main man Kris Chen, who, as luck would have it, was wearing a shirt identical to Ian's! Look at these awesome twins, and understand that much better the strength of our bond.

Another serious highlight of our time in Austin was playing with the great band Free Energy at the Rolling Stone showcase. I have seen them a couple of times previously, but on this night, they were really blazing. Totally awesome. They also hooked us up with a cassette of their fantastic album, Stuck on Nothing, which has gone into extremely heavy rotation in Blue Thunder. I couldn't find any videos of that particular performance, so here is them kicking some other asses at a different show. I mean, it is pretty much the same shit, right? Just enjoy.

I also must say that it was a distinct honor to play not one but two shows with the greatest punk band of our young century, Fucked Up, one of which was their own showcase at Red 7. Maybe the most "fucked up" thing about this band is how nice they are, even though their music is so intense and often terrifying! They really treated us very kindly and had us feeling wicked good following all of our interactions. Thanks, Fucked Up! Annoyingly enough, our busy schedule precluded actually seeing them play at either of the shows we played together, but happily, our ace booking agent John Chavez, who also books FU, was able to get us into their performance at the Fader Fort on Thursday, where we all delighted in seeing them tear it up. Here they are playing "Son the Father," the opening salvo on their brain-melting masterpiece, Chemistry of Common Life.

So, what else did we do... some of the conference's corporate sponsors had some sort of rocker oasis set up on 6th Street, where we were rewarded for a brief interview with all the snacks we could eat and all the ping pong we could play. Here are Amy and Ian going at it:

Sadly, I was too out of breath to enjoy any of this as much as I might have, as I had just run to and from a performance by Demolished Thoughts, an 80's hardcore cover band fronted by Thurston Moore and featuring J Masic and Jonah from Fucked Up on guitar and bass, respectively. Two other people were in the band too, but shit if I know who they were. Here is this awesome band playing "I Hate Sports" by 7 Seconds, from their epochal seven inch, Skins, Brains and Guts.

Back at the place with the ping pong, Eric captured Dave in quite a candid moment of badass behavior, dramatically removing his coat ala Neo from The Matrix. We sure do get a kick out of this picture, and we hope you do, too!

Well, that is enough about that particular conference. Let us discuss the proper tour now. It has been going pretty well, so far. We have been traveling with a very fine band of British youngsters called Let's Wrestle, who are pretty much killing it. They are real nice lads too, even if they WALK AROUND GAS STATION BATHROOMS WITHOUT ANY SHOES OR SOCKS ON! Ewwwwww! So gross! Good band, though. Here is them strutting their stuff at the Bootleg Theater the other night in Los Angeles.

That was a cool show. We actually sold all of the tickets - only the third time that has occured in the history of Titus Andronicus. Thanks, LA! Also, we got to hang out with our man Doug after the show! Shit yeah! Doug is awesome. You might remember him as the fellow who did that stirring reading from Titus Andronicus (the play) on our album, The Airing of Grievances. Yeah, all things considered, it was a pretty fun night. Here is us playing our song "Four Score and Seven" at that very same concert.

Still not convinced this show was good? Okay, fair enough. Before you really make up yr mind though, why not read this quite nice article that ran in the Los Angeles Times the following day? They wouldn't say all these nice things if they weren't true, would they? WOULD THEY?!?!?

Here's some other massive news. The other day, just outsude of Phoenix, AZ, our beloved van, Blue Thunder aka Art Vandelay aka Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, hit the magic 200,000 mile mark. We celebrated by listening to "Blue Thunder" by Galaxie 500 and doing a van-centric madlib. It was awesome. Here's the proof:

If I had to pick one moment of this tour where I really achieved transcendence, though, it would have to be a few nights ago in El Paso, where we found ourselves playing second on a four band bill, after our pals Let's Wrestle, but before this band called Nice Nice (not named after the club from the Lifter Puller mythology, I found out), who I had never heard of before. Long story short, THEY ARE FUCKING AMAZING. As a guy who has never been shy about his lack of patience with the excessive glut of "drummer and guy with a loop pedal" bands and how they usually suck, I can safely say that this band renders all those others moot and quadruple-handedly justifies the whole genre. Also, they use their technical virtuosity for good rather than evil, which is just unheard of. I will not bother trying to describe their music, as it was wild, nor shall I plug any record by them, as they truly have to be seen to be believed. They look like this:

Man, they rock. All right, well, I have to go and meet the others at the San Luis Obispo Arts Center to prepare to attempt to rock the faces off of whatever punks happen to show up. Why are we working so hard, you ask? Well, isn't it obvious?

BALLIN'!!! Okay, talk to you kids later. Stay safe.

Yr friend,

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dreams come true

First of all, a super big thank you to all the good people who made this Saturday's record release show the second-ever Titus Andronicus headlining appearance to sell all of its tickets! And a full two days in advance! Unbelievable. If only my teenage self could see me now, he whose life was so transformed within the walls of the Bowery Ballroom by the likes of the Arcade Fire and Ted Leo/RX and the Fiery Furnaces and Against Me! and all the other greats bands that me and my buddies have seen there. In fact, you all deserve two thank you's, since I promised myself that if that show sold out, I would buy myself a Playstation 2 (yes, 2 - the place isn't that big). Liberty City, here I come!

Speaking of my wildest dreams coming to brilliant life, could that version of myself, who, at sixteen, was never far from his Discman (remember those?) with the ever-present Slanted and Enchanted or Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, ever imagine that this summer Titus Andronicus would be playing with PAVEMENT not once but TWICE?!?!? Okay, those mindfucks will be going down at big-ass festivals where oodles of bands will be sharing in the unfathomable honor, but shit... remember Pavement? Seriously, though. Pavement! Okay, yeah, Silver Jews are better in a lot of ways (we can not live on smirking alone, after all), but shit - IT'S PAVEMENT, FOR GOD'S SAKE! We have already heard about the Primavera Sound Festival, so I guess what I am trying to say is that we are going to be playing this summer's Pitchfork Music Festival, which in itself is another surreal thing, since I can remember fondly road tripping out to Chicago with all my buddies (big shout out to Kevin, Doug, Andy and Tretiak!!) to see the first installment of that festival way back in 2006 and being bowled over by the Walkmen and the Futureheads and so on... damn, that shit was dope. We played the festival ourselves in 2008, which was one of the funnest weekends ever, and so of course we are looking forward to this very much! I have a feeling it is going to look sort of exactly like this:

Sounds like life is pretty great these days, but wait - it gets better. It is our profound honor and privilege to announce the band that we will be traveling with for the final nine shows of the MONITOUR. This is not just any band, kids, this is the Greatest Band in the World. This is the band that made the greatest record of the '00s. Hell, this is the band that made the two greatest records of the 00's. This is the only band that every member of Titus Andronicus can agree on. This is the band that, if there is any sort of justice in this world, yr kids are going to make fun of you for not spending yr whole life listening to. Of course, I could only be referring to Chapel Hill's own SPIDER BAGS.

What can I say about Spider Bags that I haven't said before? Probably nothing, so I am just going to keep it real! Spider Bags are the best. They prove definitively that musical intensity must not come at the expense of emotional resonance. Spider Bags lay it all on the line every time. Their singer, Dan McGee, is the best songwriter working in America today. He also blessed us with a beautiful vocal performance on the song "Theme from 'Cheers'" on our new record, which surely must be the most thorough and blatant attempt to rip off Spider Bags yet done by humans. What's more, they are upstanding and good-hearted men. For almost as long as we have been traveling to North Carolina, Dan McGee and his lovely wife Cordon have been opening up their home to us and seeing that all of our needs are met. I think our little buddy Liam hit it on the head when he tagged Dan with the title of 'wise king.' What band could ever rock so hard, pull so strongly at yr heartstrings, and do it all with a magnanimity worthy of Santa Claus?

But hey, don't take my word for it. Marvel at the video below, where you can see Spider Bags murderin' it at the Tip Top Bar and Grill in Brooklyn this past December. In that same video, you should also be able to see 60% of Titus Andronicus staring in wide-eyed wonder at these godlike geniuses. Wow, I am laying it on pretty thick, aren't I? Crazy thing is, it's all true. Anyway, this song is called "Long White Desert Rose," and its from their 2009 album, Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World.

So yeah. Spider Bags rule. Pitchfork Fest and Pavement are great. This Saturday's show is going to be the bomb. Life is beautiful.

Yr friend,

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Beatles were for sale - we give it away

Speaking of instant gratification, it is about time we took that concept to its logical conclusion. If you head over to our MySpace (OurSpace?) you may now stream our new album, The Monitor, in it's entirety for free, just because we like you guys so much. I have been trying very hard over the past hour to put the songs in order, but it just isn't happening. How annoying. Anyway, you already know what the tracklist is, so you shouldn't have too much trouble. This streaming thing is only going to be happening until the 3rd, or maybe just until the 2nd. I never know with this sort of thing. Just to be safe, you better listen to it right this second.

Hey, stop reading this. Didn't I just say to go listen to our record on MySpace right now?

Well, as long as yr here, we might as well talk about some of the appearances we are going to be making at this year's SXSW music conference. We already heard about the Fucked Up Saves Music showcase that is going down on the 20th at Red 7 Patio, but did you know that we are also going to be playing with Fucked Up at a BrooklynVegan day party on the 17th at Emo's? Two shows with Fucked Up - how lucky are we? Fucked Up is one of the greatest bands in the world, even though my father doesn't approve of their name (nor Fuck Buttons, for that matter). Speaking of the world's greatest bands, Japandroids is playing at that show too. See what I mean about being so lucky? It is a little bittersweet, though - that show is probably going to make me really miss my beautiful girlfriend Emily, since Japandroids and Fucked Up are our two favorite bands to listen to while enjoying our morning cup of coffee. Sigh! Still going to be pretty great, I bet.

Anyway, we are also going to be playing the Rolling Stone showcase at the Beauty Bar Annex on the 18th. Deer Tick is also playing this show, which is neat, since that band currently features erstwhile TA guitar-slinger Ian O'Neil. I wonder if he'd want to play a song with us... hmm, I guess we'll find out. Truth is, we haven't really discussed it! He played a song with us at Glasslands some months ago. Anyway. We'll play at a party hosted by Frontgate Tickets on the 19th. This show isn't going to be as loud as the other ones. What that means specifically, I can't say at this point. It just can't be all that loud for some reason. Shit, I dunno! Again, we shall wait and see.

Then, of course, there is that in-store performance at Waterloo on the 18th, but you knew about that already.

So, what else is in the news... I just read online that the Shout Out Louds are playing at Piano's tomorrow. Reading that really took me back. Back in freshman year of college, the Shout Out Louds were one of my favorite bands. That album that they had, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, was the fucking jam. I even made a fake ID with help from some friends to get into a show they played at the Mercury Lounge. My name was Patrick O'Brien. It looked like shit, but it worked! I sure felt cool. I can't go to the Pianos show, because we have to practice (we like you so much that we want to sound really good when next we see you). You should go though. Also, the singer looks a lot like Jason Schwartzman, which is just fine by me.

In case you were wondering, due to the vehement protest of a certain member of the group who shall remain nameless, Titus Andronicus will NOT be covering the greatest punk song of all time, "Racism Sucks" by 7 Seconds, on our forthcoming tour, so let me take this opportunity to explain to you why I think it is so great. It is obvious the sort of youthful inclinations that inspired its creation - a love of hollering, the thrill of foul language, general snottiness. It sounds like what it was, a gang of teenage miscreants bashing away, too new to the game to lose that spirit which is so essential to rock and roll, and especially punk. It bubbles over with giddy joy and palpable adolescent frustration, and yet, they channel it in such a positive direction! Are there not a million songs just like this one, only about girls or beer or some other nonsense? 7 Seconds decided to stack their chips with a simple and very unsophisticated sentiment, a sentiment that doesn't need to be sophisticated! I mean, it's simple, right? "Racism sucks! Racism Sucks! RAY! CISM! FUCKING! SUXXXXXXX!!!" What more is there to say than that? It's true, isn't it? Racism sucks. Wonderfully unpretentious and good-hearted and innocent. It is like seeing a sad kid sitting by himself and then seeing another little kid come over to share his toys and be friends. Just beautiful. We should all be more like this song. But hey, don't take my word for it - just look!

So great. We are still looking for a place to play April 3rd between Missoula, MT and Fargo, ND. Come on, gang - don't leave us hanging.

Well, that's enough for now.

Yr friend,