Monday, March 5, 2012

Punk Pops’ Night of Pop Punk in Asbury Park

Titus Andronicus, Screaming Females, Diarrhea Planet at the Stone Pony, March 4, 2012

I love Asbury Park.  The boardwalk area between Convention Hall and the Casino has changed a bit in recent years, adding some new restaurants and stores, but Asbury still retains that contrast between the run-down, almost ruined, old structures and the beauty of the beach that gives it its charm.  I’ve come to view my proximity to this place as a real gift, and I try to take advantage of it whenever I can see music at the Convention Hall, the Paramount, or the Stone Pony.

Last night, three other cooldads and I headed out to the Stone Pony to see Titus Andronicus.  This was the opening night of what Titus Andronicus frontman, Patrick Stickles, has called the Screaming on Planet Titus tour with Screaming Females and Nashville’s Diarrhea Planet.  It was an all-ages show, so cooldads were the outliers demographically.

Since it was a Sunday, the show came at the end of a busy day of swim meets, birthday parties, and typical weekend work for all of us.  We managed, though, to meet for a pre-show meal and drinks.  We all pretended to be joking when we started yawning at around 7:15.  Turning down an after-dinner coffee may not have been the best idea.  For my part, I was happy to let the fact that Titus Andronicus are a band I’ve attempted, and failed, to see live over the last two years carry me through the night.  We made the short walk over to the Stone Pony in time to catch the first set from Diarrhea Planet.

On Sunday night, Diarrhea Planet were a five-piece band featuring three guitarists.  Ironically, they were down one guitarist because their drummer had been overcome by digestive problems and couldn’t make the gig.  Guitarist number four took over drumming duties and did a fine job.  Even with just the three guitars, the band created a wall of impressive, hooky noise.

Diarrhea Planet, with their brand of pop punk that focused mostly on drinking beer, provided an interesting contrast to the emo, multi-movement songs of Titus Andronicus.  Songs were short.  Most had to have clocked in at under two minutes and, as one of my companions suggested, “got really good and then ended.”  Diarrhea Planet brought a youthful energy to the not-really-that-crowded room and proved a good start to the night.

New Brunswick’s Screaming Females were next and outperformed my high expectations.  Their brand of 90’s-inflected noise rock hit home for all of the cooldads.  Guitarist, vocalist, and sole female, Marissa Paternoster, is a tiny package containing a huge voice and some serious guitar chops.  The rhythm section of the power trio, while somewhat overshadowed by Paternoster’s fronting, were also exceptional.  The band ripped through a set of tight, well-crafted rock and roll complete with several examples of Paternoster’s guitar heroics.

With the renewed interest in Carrie Brownstein through Portlandia and her new band, Wild Flag, the timing of Screaming Females upcoming album, scheduled for release in April, couldn’t be better.  The Females also draw heavily on the music of J Mascis, Doug Martsch, and even Billy Corgan in getting to their sound; but they bring a personality and energy all their own.  Don’t be surprised if their new album is a breakout for them.

Titus Andronicus took the stage at about 10 p.m.  After dinner and two solid sets from the openers, some of the cooldads clearly had Monday morning on their minds at this point. 

Now five members that, according to Stickles, had only been together for the last six days, the Glen Rock, NJ band acknowledged their return home to Jersey with a punkish cover of “The Boys Are Back In Town.”  They followed that with a couple of songs from their debut, The Airing of Grievances, and then brought out the new material.  Stickles alluded to the fact that one of those new songs, standout “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood of Detritus,” would soon be available via the Internet.  We’ll see.

Halfway through the set, Stickles broke a guitar string.  He answered audience questions and bantered while the rest of the band vamped behind him as he struggled with the change.  As he pointed out, it was a “real” moment for a band with few if any roadies or “slaves” to do these types of things for them.  The episode briefly drained some energy from the room, but the band got back on track and finished strong, tearing through several highlights from 2010’s excellent, The Monitor, including that album’s 14 minute closer, “The Battle of Hampton Roads.”

Despite admitting to knowing only thirteen songs, this incarnation of Titus Andronicus played a one and a half hour set (including string change) and sounded better than I’ve heard them in live recordings.  They also left everything on the stage.  Stickles’ father was in the crowd.  I’m not sure where the high school principal’s musical tastes run, but he had to be pleased with his son’s work ethic if nothing else.

A quick word about the venue:  The Stone Pony is iconic, of course, in the annals of Jersey rock.  Even Patrick Stickles couldn’t get through the night without mentioning The Boss on stage.  Signed guitars and old show posters line the walls.  On Sunday, though, it struck me as a little staid.  While, as a cooldad, I appreciated the strictly enforced “no mosh” policy, watching security break up the action time after time was kind of a downer.

Asbury Park and rock music:  the night was a great change-up to the usual Sunday routine.  I missed the Mrs.  She would have loved it, but someone had to stay with the kids.  Next time.

No comments :

Post a Comment