Some bands don’t translate to Manhattan. Some bands change too much when they do make it to Manhattan. And some bands bring their hometown with them, like New Jersey’s own Titus Andronicus, who played a special show in the Big Apple, overlooking the Garden State, at Hudson River Park’s Pier 84 on Thursday, August 8th for RiverRocks.
Manhattan has always overshadowed the other four boroughs, and even the recent rise of Brooklyn as the epicenter of hipster-dom hasn’t changed this. Maybe the kids live in Bushwick, shop in Williamsburg, and move to Park Slope when they grow up and have kids of their own, but Manhattan still towers over it like, well, Manhattan’s many steel towers. So what’s forever beleaguered, forever denigrated New Jersey supposed to do? Its governor is known for his weight (which, admittedly, is better than being known for his extra-marital affairs, like the last governor of New Jersey – and New York, and South Carolina, and…), famed Hoboken music venue Maxwell’s (QRO venue review) just shut down – NJ doesn’t even have The Nets anymore! Well, one of the things turning the state around is a burgeoning music scene with gritty-but-fun punk rock that puts Brooklyn’s now-stale party-garage scene to shame, like Titus Andronicus.
Coming off of last year’s successful Local Business (QRO review), things have definitely been looking up for the band, and headlining at Pier 84 (QRO venue review) was another feather in the cap of frontman Patrick Stickles (even if he shaved off his old massive beard – QRO photos). They’d just come off of three nights at Maxwell’s (QRO live review), and he was even wearing a Maxwell’s t-shirt at Pier 84, which juts into the Hudson and points out at New Jersey. It was also his father’s 65th birthday – and the old man was in attendance, along with a lot of other friends & family (one advantage to being a New Jersey band: your family and childhood friends are from there, too, and thus can show up to your ‘big city’ shows, unlike Brooklyn with all of its post-college arrivals) – Stickles mentioned that his dad had been listening to group since they were on MySpace, which dated even Stickles the Younger. Patrick could sing “In a Big City” and point to it from the stage (note that he pointed across the river towards Jersey, not down the pier towards Midtown) – he could even sing “The Monitor”, about the Civil War naval shop from 2010’s album of the same name (QRO review), lined up alongside the World War II-era Intrepid the next dock slip over (also in dock, randomly, was a Spanish galleon celebrating the 500th anniversary of the voyage to Florida).
But most special was that this was the last show for one of the members of the S.S. Andronicus. Stickles remarked that this line-up was the longest-lived of any in the band’s history, eighteen months – or, “two whole gestation periods.” He then said that someone was leaving, and joked as he went through each member, including himself, saying no, it wasn’t them (or him), until finally reaching guitarist Liam Betson. Apparently Betson is moving to Canada because of a girl, maybe the only acceptable reason for such an unpatriotic action. Stickles joked with his about-to-be-ex-guitarist about the move, and even had him play a song from Betson’s solo project, Liam the Younger, as well as cover “Wasted & Ready” by Ben Kweller. The evening ended with Stickles, Betson, and the rest of Titus Andronicus lining up in a ‘four axe attack’ formation to rock out the night.
Rain had fallen during the day, but let up just before the first act came on at Pier 84, and thankfully stayed clear for just about all the rest of the show. It also didn’t keep the hardy Titus Andronicus fans from a special show – on this side of the Hudson.