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Titus Andronicus Plays for a Cause

February 11th, 2011

Titus Andronicus – Mercury Lounge – February 10, 2011

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Titus Andronicus begins their newest disc with a spoken excerpt from one of Abraham Lincoln’s earliest speeches: “As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” The Monitor is a semi-conceptual LP about the American Civil War. It’s not exactly a typical theme for an indie punk band to base an album on, but then their show last night was to benefit the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, whose mission is to empower women ages eight to 18 through music education. Clearly, this is a band with more in mind than just rocking the crowd.

It’s often artistically impossible to combine music with an activist sentiment because there’s too much paranoia and conspiracy theory that exists instead of political theory: I can see you’re getting bored already, and there’s the problem. Titus seemed to treat each song like histrionic protest music born out of earnest change, bagpipes and all; even nodding to Billy Bragg lyrics. The group had an impressive energy the entire night while drawing attention to the historic parallels and uselessness inherent in any conflict. Patrick Stickles’ vocals closely resemble Conor Oberst’s warbly vibrato combined with the rough growl of the Pogues’ Shane MacGowan (not to mention his drunken reverie).

Titus Andronicus has a socially conscious edge and energy that a band like the Clash combined so well. Last night they even covered “White Riot.” The band looks back at history, the Civil War, through a teenage-despair lens. While some believe change can happen by convincing hearts and minds, the rest think it takes starting a few fires and throwing rocks at the powers that be every once in a while. And so Titus appears to be making a strong statement about revolution with every song, but by sponsoring an organization like the Willie Mae Rock Camp they also ensure that future generations will continue to rock and question that authority. —Jason Dean