Ted Leo and The Pharmacists


October 27, 2004

Silly scenesters, joy is for kids.

Unfortunately, the college crowd turned out in droves to the Ted Leo and The Pharmacists Twiropa show Wednesday night. Was everyone just there 'cause someone told them it was the cool show of the week? It sure seemed that way. A good 100 people crowded around the stage, but the only ones openly enjoying the music were maybe five or six people dancing in the very front--where there was a space inexplicably left between the band and the audience. It's ok, people. The band won't bite you. They might actually thank you, smile at you, or sweat on you. Something cool like that. Remember that concert-going is an interactive sport. The band needs energy from the audience. It's symbiotic. I applaud Ted Leo and the band for plodding through the set even though the crowd were as cold as dead bodies. Leo tried to engage the audience by humbly confessing about his sound problems and by telling some funny jokes, but all I heard in response were crickets chirping. You people still in high school, out there? Where you can't show an emotion until someone else shows you it's cool to? I wish I could have fed that crowd to Black Flag's audience circa 1983. See if you get into it, then.

The trio from D.C. opened with the appropriately titled ode to two-tone bands like the Specials, "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" The song was a catchy rocker which was representative of the band's sound as a whole--the volume of punk mixed with the heart of folk backed by the rhythmic excesses of blues-rock.
The band never got out of control with their punk fury, but they always seemed on the verge. Leo strummed ferociously while the band kept things under control behind him. At one point, he went through a whole build-up and ending of a song with the band while repeating "It's alright" over and over again. It was a wonderfully emotional bundle of moments that showed his dedication and sincerity. I believed him, even though the statement made me think of Iraq. When I approached him after the show, it was kinda hard not to notice every inch of his shirt was covered in sweat. "She works hard for the money, so hard for it, honey." Remember that song?

Anyway, after leaving a legacy of bands behind in 1998 but before forming The Pharmacists in '99, Leo toured solo. His sojourn was notable in some of the songs' soft beginnings last night. Also, as a whole, the band's songs nodded with sweetness towards the loneliness of the singer-songwriter convention.

Leo's drummer was a tall, bearded dude who sat far from the set. This distance seemed to give him the ability to attack with a controlled fury. His style was offbeat and very germane to D.C. punk/emo. All those drummers play weird meters in a colorful way that sets them apart.

The show was explosively enjoyable. The kind of music I end making up new dances to. Really stupid dances. One-legged dances. To pogo is to live.

Leo thanked the audience and Anthony from Turducken Productions. I've never heard a band thank a promoter before. Sure, they'll thank the bar, but that was really cool of Leo to mention Anthony.

The Pharmacists closed the concert with a blistering cover of Stiff Little Fingers' "Suspect Device." Man, did that rock!

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