June 6, 2009
On Monday, June 8, both Merriweather Post Pavilion and The Ottobar will be hosting two terrific live shows. At MMP at 7PM, The Decemberists will be sharing the bill with Andrew Bird and Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3. Meanwhile at 8PM, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists will be headlining with Titus Andronicus and Sleeper Agent! opening at The Ottobar. Based on first-hand experience, both The Decemberists and Ted Leo are top-notch live, so I don't feel right recommending one over the other. Instead, I'll post a comparison list of decision-making criteria intentionally designed to result in a draw:
Theatricality: As great as Ted Leo & The Pharmacists are live, they pretty much just take their instruments and rip through their songs. With a band that good, it's one hell of a concert, but if you're looking for some delightful stage antics, The Decemberists make sure to deliver. They may lead the audience in an epic sing-along or act out a song with sea monster costumes. Hell, Colin Meloy might just climb up to the lighting fixture and perform from there. With their latest album, The Hazards of Love, having such a conceptual element, they probably have even more tricks up their sleeves to tell the story onstage. Bottom line, Meloy and co. know how to put on a show.
Energy: The Hazards of Love has more rock star moments than any other Decemberists album to date, so chances are they'll rip things up a bit more than usual, though they'll probably find time for some of their slower numbers as well. Meanwhile, every Ted Leo & The Pharmacists album has been pretty much wall-to-wall with rock star moments, and his live act puts those moments on glorious display. Plus, Titus Andronicus is one of the most acclaimed of the many up-and-coming noise rock acts around, and Sleeper Agent! is fronted by John Stabb of the DC punk outfit Government Issue. Despite Robyn Hitchcock's former stint with the punky Soft Boys and Andrew Bird's work with 1990s swing revivalists Squirrel Nut Zippers, these sets are likely to be pretty toned down.
Established Name Talent: Both of these concerts get pretty high marks here. Ted Leo is one of the most reliable rock acts around, live or on record, Titus Andronicus' debut album last year (which, luckily enough, is available for free today only here) made them Pitchfork and music blogosphere darlings, and Sleeper Agent! has 1980s DC hardcore cred. Meanwhile, Robyn Hitchcock has developed a strong cult following putting out his delightfully quirky records from his Soft Boys days in the late 1970s on through his later solo career, Andrew Bird has been a Pitchfork and blogosphere darling thanks to a string of quality albums, and The Decemberists are one of the biggest acts on the indie rock circuit today.
Proximity to stage: I apologize for posting this so close to Monday, but at this point, the best seats for The Decemberists have probably been snatched up. The Ted Leo show should provide a more intimate experience, complete with the possibility of standing near the stage.
Price: If you want those better seats for The Decemberists, be prepared to shill out $45. Otherwise, lesser seats run for $30. Cut that in half and you've got the price for the Ted Leo concert, running for $15 a pop.
Whistling: There's bound to be ample amounts of whistling from the audience at both shows, but Andrew Bird's albums are littered with some of the most beautiful whistling interludes on record. If you happen to get oddly turned on by melodic whistling, Andrew Bird will provide you with the orgasm you so bizarrely deserve.
High Male Voices: Colin Meloy and Robyn Hitchcock both offer some of the finest high nasally vocals around, but when Ted Leo goes into falsetto, it's tough to beat.
Final Pre-Determined Verdict: Draw. Both concerts should prove to be time and money well-spent.