Quick Concert Review + Photos: La Sera (and Titus Andronicus)

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Quick Concert Review + Photos: La Sera (and Titus Andronicus)

It’s fair to say that Washington, D.C. is a drinking town with workaholic tendencies, and even a drinking town can be dragged down by its darker proclivities. Which is to say, a weekday show where the opener (La Sera) starts at 1030pm is automatically competing for a smaller audience than a conventionally timed gig. And so it is with this 9:30 Club show, La Sera opening for Titus Andronicus after an earlier show (appealing to a similar demographic — ooof) featuring Parquet Courts.

But Katy Goodman‘s trio (including her betrothed, Todd Wisenbaker) is focused upon what they can control; they begin warming up the crowd with an upbeat, updated indie rock vibe that recalls her earlier work with Vivian Girls as well as venerated ’90s acts like Versus and The Lemonheads.

Their third track — “Shadow of Your Love” — bends introspectively with alt-county allusions, allusions that likely surprised fans unaware of Ryan Adams‘ involvement with their most recent offering, Music For Listening To Music To. Live, the track begins as a ballad before an explosive ending, the brief respite from rock more pronounced as they amp up its speed and volume.

Mid-song, a 6’3″ dude parks himself 3″ front of me, despite there being enough room for him to park a ’57 Chevy. No matter. It’s time to adapt: my enjoyment of this show will not succumb to his poor etiquette.

The crowd and the song steadily grow, the whammy bar on Widenbaker’s Fender Jaguar flailing as he takes center stage for an extended solo, his wife smiling and bouncing and tossing her hair in resplendent joy. It’s a moment.

Another new track kills, simultaneously highlighting the new material’s heightened familial resemblance to four-on-the-floor pound-ers. We shift to an earlier soundscape, pounding drums and bass setting up vocals that dance lightly before closing out the lyrical phrase with staccato-laden poignancy.

We’re informed that all these songs are about “fucking shit up.” Which, is debatable, but what isn’t is that they’re definitely not fucking around, despite the ever-present whimsy.

Goodman’s dextrous vocals are featured on a ballad, their wondrously beautiful tonality filled with velvety vibrato and without a trace of the snarl punctuating the air moments earlier. Most of the performance is also accompanied by her magnetic smile; they’re not The Joy Formidable, but that moniker fits.

They cover Led Zeppelin‘s “Whole Lotta Love,” their D.C.-native drummer thwacking away as the Jaguar highlights its own dexterity. Another moment. Moments later we’re feeling The Cars, receiving a lesson in both the breadth of the band’s influences and abilities…he sings…she sings…we dance.

They often offer up a metaphorical dichotomy: misanthropic violence on our left, innocent joy to our right. The devil on one shoulder, the angel on the other. The duality of Life.

Please Be My Third Eye” is a singular track that is rightly held until towards the end. It’s a tight composition, foggy bass lines underneath straight-ahead drumming and a guitar line that is tweaked a bit with additional guitar gymnastics. It’s ebullient and hopeful, inflected with California’s sunshine and the accumulated wisdom of one’s twenties. Old enough to know some things, and, young enough where the future remains full of promise. It’s jangle-y but not jangle pop, summoning up a more rocking version of 90s indie rock as Goodman’s bass pushes the track forward. They crush it, and as La Sera leaves the stage they’ve done exactly what they set out to do…warm us up.

All Photos | Katherine Gaines
9:30 Club, May 12, 2016, Washington, D.C.

Titus Andronicus sets up their gear and proceeds directly to the punk rock. Well, almost directly. We are first regaled with something that begins as spoken-word-becomes-acoustic before ripping off the band-aid and pouring salt in any and all available wounds. They are punk. They reference The Clash. Their drummer looks like a cross between that guy from “Heat” that DeNiro goes back after, (inadvisedly), and Will Forte‘s “Last Man on Earth.” Patrick Stickles thrashes about, a dynamo of hirsute-ness, and the 11 women and whole-lotta-dudes in attendance rock out cathartically, the late hour notwithstanding.

All Photos | Katherine Gaines
9:30 Club, May 12, 2016, Washington, D.C.

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Behrnsie has a love for music that dare not speak its name. He attends many shows and can often be found counting out the beats for no discernible reason. He played alto saxophone in his middle school jazz band, where he was best known for infuriating his instructor when it was revealed that he played everything by ear, and could not in fact read music. He takes great pride that this is the same talent/affliction that got Tori Amos kicked out of the Peabody Academy. He does not live in his parents’ basement….except during the holidays.

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