Monday, October 24, 2011

Amy's Greatest Hits

In honor of Amy's recent graduation, let us talk a quick look back at some of her most sterling contributions to the life of Titus Andronicus.

Firstly, here is a world premiere music video for the song which shall tragically stand as the totality of Amy's contribution to the Titus Andronicus canon of recordings as guitarist and vocalist. It isn't even our song! It is Nirvana's "Breed," recorded at the request of Spin magazine for their 20th anniversary celebration of Nevermind. In this video, you'll also get to see Amy's talent as an extra, in her scene-stealing performance as "The Ghost."

In our live set, Amy would occasionally sing the lead vocal on a cover song when the feminist content of the lyrics would suggest a woman's touch to be prudent. Here we are playing "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!" by X-Ray Spex at the Black Cat in Washington, DC this past April.

This video, filmed in Chicago in the summer of 2010, should do much to display Amy's skills on both the guitar and violin. Playing the harmonized guitar solo at the end was always a favorite of mine during our time together. The song is "The Battle of Hampton Roads."

Titus Andronicus | FOR NO ONE from FOR NO ONE on Vimeo.

Something a lot of people don't realize is, while Amy did not play on the Monitor, she did play on The Airing of Grievances, contributing her distinctive electric violin to two tracks. Sounds like a good enough reason to reinvest in the video for "Upon Viewing Brueghel's 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,'" and keep an ear cocked for that high and lonesome fiddle.

As I said yesterday, when there was business to be done, Amy would let nothing stand in the way of her smacking it down. Watch the music video below and marvel at Amy performing through a recently-sustained concussion. The song is "No Future Part Three."

I wanted to embed a video from Amy's second show (and David's, for that matter), an office party at Pitchfork headquarters in Brooklyn in February 2010, but the embed code is sassing me and I don't really know anything about HTML, so here is a link. The song is "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ."

Lastly, it's another world premier. Earlier this year, when we toured as the opening act for Okkervil River, Amy would sometimes join the bosses on stage to play her fiddle on their song, "The Valley" (funny, isn't it, that Amy has a song of her own with that same name?) Her is that very thing going down on the last night of the tour, at Jake's in Lubbock, TX.

Yeah, we really did have some good times. Obviously, I could go on and on, but now is the time to look into the future! For punks, the past is prologue, and I am already late for the first practice of Titus Andronicus 6.0. Let's get it!

Yr friend,

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Still yet another fond farwell

As many of you may have already heard, Amy Klein is no longer a member of Titus Andronicus. Shocking, I know, but true. Even I can barely comprehend it; she has become that vital a part of the band's very identity. Strange, and sad, to think that never more may we warm ourselves by the fire of her endless enthusiasm, or that she takes with her the dream of a Titus Andronicus album complete with her certain kind of magic. Anyone who has seen her on stage can speak to this intensity, the passion for rock and roll, as those who have met her know she has for life, that has inspired many of us, within the band organization and without. Yet, with this admiration must come respect, and it is dutiful respect that we will show to her decision to leave Titus Andronicus behind to devote her considerable energies to her ever-growing list of projects and passions.

Why was Amy compelled to make this decision? Probably best to let her tell you herself, via her Tumblr, which would probably be a good place to keep up on her various doings in the future. To be frank, knowing what I do about her prose style, I was expecting 4 or 5000 words more on the topic, but there you have it. Brevity is the soul of wit after all, I suppose, not that I'll let that stop me when my turn comes.

I've noticed a lot on the internet lately that when people allude to other blogs and such, they often quote a piece of the text. I'll try that here.

I just got back from my last tour with the band Titus Andronicus. Yes, it’s true. As of today, I am no longer a member of the band.
No, there was no big fight or anything—no wild partying, drug, or alcohol addiction leading to me getting fired—no dramatic story—nothing like that. It is just time for me to move on.
read more

For my part, and as a representative of the organization, I more than reciprocate Amy's feelings of gratitude. Having her in the band has been an enormous blessing, as she is a rare and visceral talent. Onstage, she can rock more thoroughly and with less fear than most anyone I can name, and to stand next to her night after night and try to not be totally swallowed up by her light has been one of the greatest challenges, and privileges, of my career. Many was the time when I wondered at a transformation the likes of which an indie rocker's eyes had rarely seen, when Amy, sick and weary from life on the road and ready to crawl off into some hole and die (as any sensible person would be), would plug in her guitar and reach inside herself and always find the strength to deliver the goods; if there was an audience, any audience, she would never fail to give them everything that she had, and I mean never. Her contributions as a musician, whether playing guitar or violin or singing, were exemplary, and her value as a friend was greater than gold (amidst many changes, the latter remains true). We wish her the fullest success on all of her future endeavors, though she needs no one's well wishing; such is the strength of her talent and her conviction and her character that we are sure she'll do just fine on her own.

If you still believe that this is a place to spare words, consume information like a greedy, hungry pig, then shit it out and on to the next, feel free to navigate to any of the other fine pages that the internet has to offer, for I must effuse, as I am both sentimentalist and symbologist. Come back tomorrow though, and I'll reassure you about Titus Andronicus' future (we have a new guitarist and everything and we have lots of grand plans), or just follow the Twitter account I today created in an attempt to fill the void left by the former @AmyAndronicus.

As a lover of serendipity, which is to me like the bird to a birdwatcher, I recall a night in 2009, the 24th of October, when I attended a concert at Death by Audio in Brooklyn. The future of my musical career was uncertain at the time (ok, the future is always uncertain); Titus Andronicus had recently completed an American tour with our great friends the So So Glos, which, while fun, and rich with memories I wouldn't trade for anything, didn't really reflect the growth that perhaps we thought the band had made earlier in the year during the promotional exercises for The Airing of Grievances. It also didn't help morale when Titus Vandronicus, then known principally as Blue Thunder, had blown out one of it's piston's fifty miles outside of Austin, calling for a whole new engine to be installed to the tune of some five thousand dollars, for Titus Andronicus to limp home with half of it's membership sweating it out in the back of a Budget truck, and for the psyche of long-suffering “responsible one” Ian Graetzer to endure yet another devestating blow via the punishing 1,750 mile drive from Austin to New Jersey following the completion of the repairs some weeks later (you recall that he would hold out for about another 14 months, plus another four for tax season, before devoting himself full time to his career in the visual arts). My anxiety was further compounded by the fact that I was still reeling from the loss of my Guitar Dream Team of Andrew Cedermark and Ian O'Neil earlier in the year, not long after thoroughly crushing their spirits with said promotional exercises via The Tour That Wouldn't End (January-March 2009, 63 shows in eight countries in 72 days). The band survived with the helping hands of erstwhile guitarist Liam Betson, and of Dinowalrus mastermind Pete Feigenbaum, but I was still short two first-class guitar slingers. Such was the state of my on-again/off-again love/hate affair with the beautiful and intoxicating and infuriating spirit of Independent American Rock and Roll as I passed through those well-consecrated doors on S. 2nd Street.

The band was Double Dagger. I had first seen them in 2007 at the now-long-gone construction worker cafeteria beside the then-in-construction Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, now looming over northeastern industrial Greenpoint, recalling nothing less than the Death Star in it's sleek and foreboding futurism (learn more about the creek and the plant here). The crudely hewn shack had been appropriated into one of those all-ages DIY-type spaces you always hear about and christened Uncle Paulie's. I was there to see a Japanese post-hardcore/psychedelic band called Green Milk from the Planet Orange, whose album, City Calls Revolution, I had been enjoying thoroughly the past few months after seeing them at 3rd Ward, and playing their ten-to-twenty minute jams frequently on my college radio show on 95.3 WRPR (perfect for cigarette breaks). I never saw them again after that night, but the opening band made an impression that would last to modern day. The singer screamed in my face (MY face! Personally! Still a shocking thing to a green boy from New Jersey like me) about (I would later learn) typography and modern art and their place in modern life, whilst pulling the hood of my sweatshirt up over my head without my consent. The beats and riffs were pure punk ass-whupping, a drums-and-bass duo that helped shape ideas of who was really disposable in the classic power trio setup (better luck next time, regular guitar!). Titus Andronicus would later play with them and the So So Glos later that year at Dead Herring in Brooklyn, the night before I was to take the GRE's, which would deliver me from rock and roll into the next stage of academia, and onto a sensible, sustainable life path. It was early the next year when, by chance, this insane frontman turned out to be the very same Nolen who had set up our very first show in Baltimore at the Charm City Art Space, during Titus Andronicus' second ever tour, dubbed “The Deep Freeze.” The night of hospitality that followed cemented the friendship, and over the next 18 months, I (along with others in TA) became a bigger and bigger fan of the band, and their concerts in New York were never to be missed. In describing them to the uninitiated, I would throw around terms like Best Working American Punk Band and Best Frontman in Rock and Best Live Band, and probably would have gotten around to Best Punk Rhythm Section of All Time as well, had I not only recently coined that term to throw around whilst describing contemporary Fucked Up. I was so enthralled that, just a few months earlier, I had asked Nolen to both design the album art for our album The Monitor, and also act on the record, reading a passage from William Lloyd Garrison. My enthusiasm for them became synonymous inside me with that same fire I had spent my entire adult life up to that point chasing. They were the very spirit of rock and roll, which, as it were, happened to be the very thing I was looking for.

There amongst the crowd was a face I recognized from the past, almost like a ghost. I had known Amy Klein in my college days, when she was classmates and musical collaborators with my then-girlfriend at their place of study, the noted President machine and Galaxie 500 incubator (not a small consideration for a G5C superfan like me, considering I had gone so far as to consult Dean Wareham via e-mail to seek his counsel on the quagmire of rock and roll dreams vs. graduate school, which I knew his seminal band struggled with – nice guy!) of Harvard University (just to give proper context, I was at the time studying at Ramapo College of New Jersey, a fine school, but most noted for ranking #2 on Men's Health's list of “Fattest Small Colleges”), and had been impressed by the energy she displayed in her punk band, Plan B for the Type A's, a refreshing antidote to the self-conscious half-rocking common of most college-age guitar slingers; her ability to play a sharp-looking, blue, electric violin, and her distinction of being from Glen Ridge, New Jersey, also stuck with me. I had not seen her for two years, however, as she graduated and moved off to Japan (to make a documentary film about underground rock music, particularly psychedelia, as it were); equidistant between that event and this night in 2009 was the dissolution of the relationship which was the lifeline of our friendship. While she had certainly made an impression on me, it wasn't her face that I expected to come across amongst my brothers and sisters in the thrall of the Baltimore renaissance (Future Islands also played this show, beginning Nolen's greatest challenge yet for the Best Frontman title – his own pal, and now mine, Sam). Still, there she was.

Turns out she'd moved back to America, Brooklyn, as it were, Fort Greene, and she was working busting crooked cops for the city, racking up an office-best 50% completion rate. She was there on a date with a fellow she hadn't known for long, but was certainly handsome, and definitely a good dancer. Now, I wasn't the temperate teetotaler that I am today, so invincible with grape Four Loko, the spark of remembering that she could play guitar was enough to light my desperate powder keg, and I eagerly let out an invitation for her to join Titus Andronicus, along with a sloppily detailed rundown of the band's plans for the next year, as well my current fixation, the 100 Show Guarantee (if you do 1, you have to do 100). Most folks probably would have taken one look at a display like this and ran for the hills, or at least the bathroom, but Amy wasn't most folks; if she were, I wouldn't have wanted to have anything to do with her, as a fellow who deals in trying to bottle that fire that we were all there at Death by Audio that night chasing, in one form or another. She told me she'd think about it. That night, I cooked Double Dagger frozen waffles at my still-unfurnished apartment on Greenpoint Avenue and wondered what the future held. A third of a mile to the east, the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant glowed an eerie purple.

She thought about it, and further discussion and careful consideration followed, and on the evening of November 5th, what remained of Titus Andronicus gathered at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, including, for the last time, Pete Feigenbaum, to open for leading Canadian punk gods Fucked Up, yet another bright beacon whose light is of that oft-mentioned fire, who were performing their Polaris-Prize-winning masterpiece The Chemistry of Common Life in it's entirety, with no less a supernova of rock and roll exuberance than Andrew WK on keyboards, and our old buddies, a great band besides being a shining example of the strength of women in indie rock then and now, the Vivian Girls on backing vocals. It was here that I bent the ear of my assembled comrades and told them I had found the guitarist we had been looking for, or should I say, the benign indifference of the universe delivered her unto me. Ian remembered her from when she played that electric violin of her's on The Airing of Grievances; Eric had to go on my strongly worded recommendation.

It wasn't long after that, we were back in the pool house behind Ian's parents' Spanish-style residence in Glen Rock, with Amy and David, Eric's friend and former roommate from their days at Bloomsburg University, going over the chords for “Titus Andronicus” the song with yet four more new hands. Titus Andronicus 5.0 played it's first show at New York's United Palace on January 17th, 2010, opening up for Extra Large Recordings' golden geese, Vampire Weekend, who counted among their members Montclair, NJ's Ezra Koenig, who, as a child, was given piano lessons by the same teacher as the young woman from nearby Glen Ridge, who stood on that stage that night for the first time as a member of Titus Andronicus.

On Thursday night, October 20th, Amy Klein played her penultimate show with Titus Andronicus, opening for the Thermals at the Olympic Community Hall in Halifax, Novia Scotia, Canada, as part of the Halifax Pop Explosion festival. 866 long highway miles away, Double Dagger played their last show in Brooklyn, back one more time at Death by Audio, having decided to break up after nine years (almost exactly nine years) saying goodbye to old fans, and, I'll bet, turning on some new ones as well; hey, maybe there were even a couple crazy kids by the bathrooms starting to cook up a plan for what would turn out to be the greatest adventure of their lives. Double Dagger was that sort of band.

On Friday night, October 21s, Amy Klein played her last show with Titus Andronicus, a “secret” performance at the bar Tribeca, also part of that Pop Explosion. Down in Baltimore, Double Dagger played their last show at Ottobar, where a couple years earlier, dear, sweet Nolen had watched us play amongst an audience of maybe 15, whose echoes, rattling around all that empty space, threatened to overpower the band, and told us we were a “powerhouse.” Happily, more people than that came out on this historic evening.

If you live in the greater New York area, yr first chance to see Titus Andronicus with our new guitarist (secret identity forthcoming), and to peer into our crystal ball, will come on November 11th, when we will be the opening act at Le Poisson Rogue for Fucked Up performing their album David Comes To Life in its entirety (unless you don't already have tickets, because it is sold out). Hopefully, it will be a good night to take a chance again (wow, ok, that was too much). Fucked Up, of course, being the headlining band on the night when I saw Double Dagger for what turned out to be the last time, at NYU in February of this year.

Tomorrow's October 24th, and that'll be two years since Amy Klein walked back into my life that fateful night at Death by Audio. What do these numbers all mean? Nothing, of course. They're only coincidences, as everything is, but as Amy's brother in existentialism, I am bound to remind you that the world has never held beauty but for that which eager eyes willed themselves to see, and it is each of our duty's, even in hard times, or especially then, to search for meaning and majesty and mystery wherever we may find it. If numbers be a way to remind myself of that, if I can find some glimmer of hope in their strange grace, then they are beautiful indeed.

Two years. Two years in a young person's life is a gift that you can only give a precious few times, and it only gets more precious as time passes. Amongst everything else, Amy gave this gift to Titus Andronicus, and can word or deed every repay such a blessing? If they do, I doubt I have the brain to find the words or the strength to do the deed, but I do thank you, Amy. You are forever our sister. I wish you good journey, and hope that we should meet again, if not in this life, then in Valhalla.

Yr friend,