There was a pretty great line-up a couple weeks back on a Thursday the 9th at the 930 — Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Obits, and Screaming Females. I knew the Screaming Females only by reputation. I’d already seen Obits twice in the past year. And I have seen Ted Leo like a million times. So in a way I really wanted to see them in inverse order, but I had some social obligations and ended up missing Screaming Females, unfortunately.
But I wasn’t about to miss Obits. What a kick-ass rock band! It was weird to see them on the huge 930 stage playing in front of a mostly oblivious crowd. On paper (or screen) it seems like Obits would be a great band to open for Ted Leo — both bands play melodic, smart, punky tunes, and in fact while I was watching Obits I was thinking that Ted Leo could easily cover these songs. But something seemed to keep the crowd from fully embracing Obits (and vice versa). I got the impression that the Ted Leo fans liked it, but were also antsy for the main act. This is the fate of every opening act at a place as big as the 930.
Of course I was already a huge fan, and I managed to watch them from almost right in front of the stage while I waited for other friends to show up at the club. They played a couple of new songs that I didn’t recognize, and for the first time they didn’t play “Back and Forth” which is their cheesy/dumb/awesome pop song, but they just slayed on “Milk Cow Blues.” There was a problem with the sound, though, and I thought that the guitars were out of balance — Rick Froberg’s was too loud and Sohrab Habibion’s was too quiet.
I actually chatted to Froberg after the show for a few minutes, he was hanging around outside the 930 Club and I just wanted to tell him how rad it was. He mentioned that he wasn’t super thrilled about playing a “concert” rather than a “show.” Other nights on their tour were “shows” but the show at the 930 was more of a “concert.” I knew what he meant. I agreed. Obits are not a “concert” kind of band but they seem to be better each time I see them. I reckon at least a handful of the Ted Leo fans were won over.
Anyway, speaking of Ted Leo fans…
Well, really what is there to say? I don’t want to be an elitist ass always mumbling to the side, all, “I remember when Ted Leo lived here and was playing solo shows every other day, where did all these annoying young internet-based fans come from, blah blah blah.” But I will just mention how odd it is that Ted Leo is pretty much the only musician who crossed over into the post-millennial indie scene successfully from a certain time and era of indie/hardcore/post-hardcore DC/east coast music. Phew — what a mouthful. It makes sense to me. I mean he is basically the only semi-popular musician with roots in hardcore, I guess. Also he has James Canty back in the Pharmacist fold, which is almost like Johnny Marr joining Modest Mouse, or Nels Cline joining Wilco. Though I miss French Toast.
Anyway my point is just that I have weird conflicted feelings about latter-era Ted Leo stuff but I still love his music, admire him greatly as an individual, and keep listening to material from throughout his career. But I listened a fair number of times to the new TL/Rx album, The Brutalist Bricks and it hasn’t done a whole lot for me. It seems more punk-rock than some of his other albums, and seems impassioned, but little of it really grips me except maybe for “Bottled in Cork” which is the latest in a long series of Ted Leo songs about traveling in the world.
Anyhow the show was fun, drawing heavily on the new album and touching on pretty much all the other Ted Leo albums. They didn’t play too much of the good stuff from the mid-era albums but they did a ton of old songs from Tyranny of Distance which was enjoyable. For an encore Ted did a solo cover of the Waterboys and at the very end, as things seemed about to wrap up, I was thinking to myself “it would be cool with all these old songs if they would end on ‘Stove by a Whale'” and that is exactly what they did! Cool — certainly took me back.
I can’t find much in the way of vids or photos from the show but it’s not like the internet needs much more Ted Leo stuff anyway. But here is a photo snagged from essgee on flickr: