Alan Day of Four Year Strong was tapped as the local opener for this stop of Title Fight's ongoing tour, which was beginning to come to an end as it rolled into Boston on this chilly night where faint snowflakes fell onto the streets outside the Royale Boston Nightclub (having been moved from the perpetually delayed Sinclair venue). He performed some acoustic songs under the Here and Now moniker. While the styles decidedly differ between Day solo (simple, rough-hewn acoustic cuts) and his day gig (burly, vaguely punky hard rock), one's appreciation of this side project may or may not depend on enjoying the other, because it unfortunately came off as little more than introductory background music for this gig.
The first proper act of the package, London, Ontario's Single Mothers, came on next. Like most people, imaginably, their name first came on my radar when TouchÃ© AmorÃ© frontman Jeremy Bolm scooped them up as the initial artist for his Secret Voice imprint; I enjoyed what I heard (an obscure, possibly self-titled EP of sorts, not to be confused with their newer, self-titled 7"), so it was a nice surprise when they were chosen for this entire tour. I think the band themselves played all right, but their set was plagued by some major sound issues. The bass was entirely too loud; the vocals were either too low or high at times; and the general mix just seemed off, making them sound like an entirely different band live than on record (while still playing a Hold Steady-influenced take on rock 'n' roll-peppered hardcore). Their aesthetic was consistent, though (everyone dressed in black, save a plaid percussionist), and the crowd seemed into it at times, with responses ranging from confused stares to warm sing-alongs and sloppy stage-dives ("Winter Coats" and particularly "Baby" had bigger reactions). A new song, "Ketamine," was quite good–urgent and concise but nonetheless dynamic.
The sound seemed to hamper the start of Pianos Become the Teeth's set as well, but a couple songs in, the atmosphere settled and the band sounded a little more pristine, pedals and all. They played a seemingly quick set, so perhaps it was easy to get the loving answer from the crowd that they did, awkward stage dives and all. A new track, "Hiding," finds singer Kyle Durfey actually singing (akin to "I'll Get By," but it would probably still throw current fans a curve) while retaining the emotional desperation the band's reaped acclaim for. On "Shared Bodies," the Saddest Landscape frontman Andy Maddox–who had been watching and singing along from the back of the stage–rushed forward to join Durfey for some cathartic joy. It was definitely one of the shorter sets I've seen a direct support band play, but there wasn't a wasted second.
Set list (8:51-9:24):
- I'll Be Damned
- Good Times
- Hiding [new]
- Shared Bodies [w/ Andy Maddox of the Saddest Landscape]
- I'll Get By
When Title Fight rang out the opening strums to "Head in the Ceiling Fan," a space cleared out on the floor and the endless parade of stage-dives began immediately. Throwing your own body off an elevated platform during a slow-moving, Hum-ish, shoegazey opener? Only at a Title Fight show.
From there, it was gold. The band segued perfectly from "Fan" into the rolling drums of "Numb, But I Still Feel It," the opener to their recent, excellent effort, Floral Green, and any sound issues that had plagued the openers had been figured out in time for the headliner. The band was as loose and energetic as they've always been, with a pinch more tightness in their delivery as they've become seasoned punk performers. It took a second for them to warm up to the chosen song at times–a verse to capture the sour playfulness of "Calloused," for instance–but it was rare.
After "Solitude," vocalist/bassist Ned Russin expressed his gratitude for how the Boston hardcore scene has inspired him (namely bands like In My Eyes, Bane and Have Heart). Then he said simply, "We wrote this when we were little kids" (or maybe it was "very young"), before the band blasted into the only three-year-old "Symmetry." While that doesn't seem like that much time on paper, comparing the growth between Title Fight's spurt to a gruffer, emotional punk sound from their previous, poppy melodic hardcore incarnation and now to a noisy, punky, sometimes shoegazey, alternative/indie rock powerhouse does show how much the band have truly grown up–both live and especially on record.
Set list (9:42-10:30):
- Head in the Ceiling Fan
- Numb, But I Still Feel It
- Secret Society
- Make You Cry
- Loud and Clear
- You Can't Say Kingston Doesn't Love You
- Memorial Field
- Like a Ritual