Coachella 2011: Titus Andronicus serves one for the grown-ups
Midway through an early afternoon set on Coachella's secondary mainstage, Titus Andronicus singer Patrick Stickles turned and took a swig from a cup. The crowd cheered. "Electroylytes," Stickles corrected, generating an audible groan of disappointment. "Maybe wait until the cover of darkness to get wasted," Stickles advised.
Though the heat was at its peak at 3:50 p.m., one couldn't be blamed for thinking Stickles was drinking something more potent than an electrolyte-spiked beverage. After all, Titus Andronicus takes the barroom roll of the E Street Band and marries it with the drunken poetry of the Pogues, where the bar, the hangover and all the mistakes that happened in between are all fit for romanticizing.
Indeed, the members of New Jersey's Titus Andronicus look as if they rarely see daylight, all thin, pale and a little grumpy. "I'm not sure who's next," Stickles said, ignoring the crowd's cheers of Warpaint. "So stay tuned for Kanye West."
So the very fact that Titus Andronicus could inspire crowd sing-alongs and extended chants to such Titus slogans as "you will always be a loser" was a grand achievement at Coachella. The band seemed to attract every card-carrying Coachella member of the 30-plus crowd to its set, and the band delivered 45 minutes of punk rock grounded in American roots music as filtered through Glen Rock, New Jersey.
Time touring with the Pogues has clearly been good to Titus, as the act finds ways to pounce on every nuance of its mostly chorus-less songs. Guitarist/violinist Amy Klein took a more commanding presence than she had at earlier Titus gis, planting her combat boot on the stage monitor for every riff.
As Titus' set was coming to an end, the band inspired, perhaps, one of my favorite Coachella moments (note: this is my 10th Coachella). It occurred deep into "Four Score and Seven," a song that staggers to a jolting, guitars-firing-on-all-cylinders finale.
The crowd, recognizing the set was near its end, began to look for alternate options. Just as the song rises to the "it's still us against them" rant, a twentysomething man turned, pointed his hand to the sky and shouted, "To the Ferris wheel!" Acts of rebellion are all relative, apparently, as not too far away a small group of guys took out a bottle of whiskey, and began passing it around. They walked all the way to see Odd Future shouting, "It's still us against them!"
Best overheard comment: A concertgoer trying to talk his friend out of attempting to gate-crash. "Look, I'm not saying it's impossible, but you need to be smarter than the average bear."
And Coachella's most hyped act: L.A.'s rap collective Odd Future, performing in the large Sahara tent, had the audience, but could they hold them? My colleague covered the gig and an in-depth post should be up soon, but here's a tip for the boys going forward: If your set is running late, you may not want to swear at the sound guy.
-- Todd Martens
Photo: Musicians Patrick Stickles (L) and Amy Klein of Titus Andronicus perform during Day 1 of Coachella. Photo: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images.