Santa Barbara doesn’t get loud very often. Maybe it’s Jack Johnson’s fault, or our endless summer, or some sunny combination thereof, but our little beach town tends to attract quieter artists lazily drifting down the coast. Or, judging by the turnout at Ted Leo and the Pharmacists’ show at SOhO last Wednesday night, maybe we just don’t dig noise. While SOhO remains lovely if empty and hosting the usual smattering of pretty music, a punk show without a violent, sweaty, tightly-packed crowd just feels awkward. Somebody push someone.
The night began with another New Jersey band that proved successful at murdering State Street’s collective hearing. Openers Titus Andronicus showed off the noisy absurdity from their new album, The Monitor, which Pitchfork honored with both an 8.7 rating and a ‘Best New Music’ label. Their sophomore release is an hour of Civil War fury that translates surprisingly well from disc to live show. And with an American flag draped behind them, you can’t help but think about that slightly more famous dude from the Garden State (no, not Zach Braff), The Boss.
Lead singer Patrick Stickles, who looks and sounds like some sort of bearded pirate, takes the youthful optimism of Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” drowns it in liquor, lights it on fire, and spits it out as a slew of anthemic angst. In particular, “Four Score and Seven” was a fantastic drunken sing-a-long featuring Amy Klein, rockin’ a dress and Addidas tennis shoes, playing mean violin a la Flogging Molly.
And then Ted Leo strolled out, playing a perfectly respectable and impassioned set, hoping to convince us his signature fast-paced power pop is still relevant. We’re not entirely sure. He’s currently touring to show off The Brutalist Bricks, his latest, and sixth, studio album. (Maybe the low attendance was a generational thing?) Hard-working Ted Leo has been making solid power punk for years, but youngsters aren’t really into him. And in a town heavily-populated by 17- to 21-year-old college kids, it makes sense that only a handful of fresh-faced punks showed up to show him any love.
I just wonder what Abraham Lincoln would have thought of the show.