Pairing one of the greatest underground punk-rooted acts of this decade with an icon of last, fans of smart, genre-bending, reflective, artsy and poignant punk and indie rock will not want to miss Titus Andronicus and Ted Leo at The Basement East tonight, Oct. 25. Celebrating both a recent LP and new EP, Titus, now going by the moniker of +@, largely evolved past their punk origins to adopt a mellow, earnest, indie sound with latest full-length A Productive Cough. And iconic songwriter Leo, who’s playing this tour solo, and has innovated with new projects each decade since the ’80s, returned last year with his first ever album without long-time backing band The Pharmacists, navigating personal tragedy and uncertain times with his most personal effort ever. Either of these artists would be a highly-recommended show, but together on one bill, they’re such a wonderful and inspired pairing, and definitely an essential fall concert. You can still grab tickets right here, and read on for more about the show below.
Over a decade into their existence, New Jersey indie punks Titus Andronicus have cemented their status as one of the hardest working, most interesting bands in the underground scene through years of nonstop touring and albums that constantly improve, evolve, and push boundaries. Fans of ambitious concepts and clearly willing to put painstaking effort into crafting compelling, different releases each time, the band showcased their ability to distill their essence into the straightforward, aggressive, and fine-tuned third full-length Local Business in 2012, inarguably the LP that brought them broader critical and commercial attention. For their highly-anticipated followup and fourth album, 2015’s The Most Lamentable Tragedy, Titus tackled an even more ambitious project, composing a five-act, 90 minute concept album framed as a rock opera. And with this year’s followup fifth album A Productive Cough, the band largely eschew their punk beginnings for a more heartland rock infused, and mellow, indie effort (they also just dropped a Halloween inspired, reflective and macabre new EP, Home Alone on Halloween, earlier this month). A thinking man’s punk and indie band, the group, who recently adopted the new moniker of +@ (though for clarity in writing, we’ll continue to use their old name), have always been a reflection of founder and frontman Patrick Stickles’ state of mind; at their start, they were closure for his teens, Tragedy marked a bookend on the talented rocker’s 20s, and Cough feels like a mature, existential effort of a 30-something former punk. Their live experience is equal parts meticulous recreation and unhinged energy, and as Stickles and the band get older, so too does their sonic and thematic journey and musical exploration; don’t sleep on this show.
Like Titus Andronicus, rocker Ted Leo made a name for himself in the underground punk scene, before drifting into something much more expansive, thoughtful, and mature in later years, but unlike Titus, his journey began a couple decades earlier, first as an underground fixture in the New York hardcore scene of the late ’80s with Citizens Arrest. Bouncing between projects, Leo next found wider acclaim in the ’90s for his power pop and mod punk revivalist project Chisel, formed at Notre Dame and later and most notably based in Washington, DC, before stepping out solo and assembling a backing band, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, at the start of the new millennium. With classic and beloved albums throughout the ’00s like The Tyranny of Distance and Hearts of Oak, The Pharmacists’ fusion of punk, indie, and art rock, coupled with Leo’s smart, earnest, meaningful songwriting proved to be the DIY lifer’s most successful and enduring project, and over the last 20 years, the band have remained a staple of the indie and punk underground and critical darlings. Some unfortunate personal tragedy in 2011, however, a year after The Pharmacists’ most recent effort, largely caused Leo to retreat from the public eye, spending time examining his life, career, and art going forward. Leaving New York City for Rhode Island, Leo re-emerged in 2014 to release an album with Aimee Mann as The Both, but it wasn’t until last year, when Ted put out a record, The Hanged Man, under his own name for the first time (largely recorded alone, without his longtime band), that he truly navigated the pain, heartbreak, upheaval, and uncertainty of the past few years. Crowd-founded and self-released, The Hanged Man is Leo’s darkest and most personal LP yet, and while it certainly still incorporates familiar indie and pop punk influence, it feels like an important and intimate step in charting a path forward for the long-running artist. For this show, he’s performing solo, but we’d expect plenty of career spanning tunes as well as an imitate set of Ted’s latest.
Titus Andronicus and Ted Leo will perform tonight, Oct. 25 at The Basement East. The show is 18+, begins at 8 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.), and tickets are available to purchase for $20.