Live Review + Videos: Okkervil River at First Avenue 6/12/2011
I believe strongly that you can pull off just about anything in music if you do it genuinely and with a full on balls-to-the-wall attitude. The second you start questioning yourself or giving the impression that it is (or could be) a stunt, you then become at best a pastiche and at worst a full on joke. Sunday night at First Avenue found three bands that successfully walked that tightrope, albeit with three very different musical styles.
Openers Future Island, a Baltimore trio that mixed chilly electro pop with some of the most theatrical showmanship I have seen in a while. While the bass and synth players were as stoic as humanly possible, front man Samuel Herring prowled around stage like a madman, looking like Ricky Gervais playing Henry Rollins. A crowd that initially was shocked and giggling was mostly won over by the end of their spirited set, with Herring serving as a gothic opera singer at an end of the world, decedent as hell dance party.
Not surprisingly, second opener Titus Andronicus stole the show. Playing spirited rustic punk, the band won over fans that had not seen them and proved again to those who had seen them why they are one of the most powerful, joyful and chaotic live bands playing right now. Playing punk music about the Civil War could easily descent into eye rolling snobbery, but the band play with such passion and vigor that it is virtually impossible to not have a smile while they are thrashing away on stage. Especially poignant was the always amazing “No Future Part III: Escape from no Future,” which was the mid set highlight, although there was not a dud amongst their 45 minute set.