The best of an imperfect world

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists / Screaming Females
Tallahassee, Club Downunder
April 3, 2010

…But first, let me tell you about my journey to Tallahassee. It was a beautiful Saturday, I was listening in the car to Michael Palin read his Diaries, and I was just south of my old hometown, Gainesville, when suddenly my car started violently shuddering. Never a good sign, much less at 80 mph. Luckily, I was in the far left lane, so I was able to pull to the side of the Interstate and get out of the way. I’m a paranoid, worried driver at the best of times, and this was certainly not the best of times. I got out of the car, and found a spectacularly blown out front tire on the passenger side. Called AAA for assistance, and when they asked where I was, all I could think of was “I’m between the exits for Jai-Alai and the strip club”. I knew the area but only by its landmarks. The guy soon came and bravely replaced my tire, inches from cars whizzing by. When he was done, I hobbled up the interstate as fast as the crappy spare tire would allow, and made it to Gainesville, where it was replaced with a real one. I’m fortunate, I suppose, that it happened close to a town I knew my way around, which was not in the middle of nowhere. If it had occurred an hour further up the road, around Lake City, I’d have been in trouble. As was, I got to see a couple of old friends, roam around Target, and made it to Tallahassee only three hours behind schedule.

Anyway, on to the rock.

Screaming Females were up first, and I didn’t know anything about them other than that they had a great name. Sho’nuff, they’re led by a singer/guitarist named Marissa, who has long hair that covers her eyes and also she is great. Seriously, her guitar playing was really interesting, and the band were tight, and it was a terrific set. I’ll look them up, you should do the same.

Then came Shorty Award winning Ted Leo, who, along with his Pharmacists, has just released an excellent album called ‘The Brutalist Bricks’. They opened with ‘The Mighty Sparrow’, which, unlike its video, succumbed to the stupid laws of gravity, but only just. Cut to the chase: this band is on fire. When they were done, I felt like it had been a short set, but look at that list: they played 20 songs! And that’s just what I remember two days later. Throwing three singles into the first four songs might be a problem for some bands, but TL/Rx didn’t lose any momentum, and I’m happy to say, the crowd was really into it too – not always a given at Club Downunder. There’s not a lot to say about the performance: they ploughed through great song after great song, and I was struck by how hard Big Steve hits his drums. That guy means it.

I was surprised at how few songs from ‘Living with the Living’ came up, but not too saddened by the emphasis on the new album and ‘Shake the Sheets’. Everything I wanted to hear got played. ‘Bottled In Cork’, the highlight from ‘The Brutalist Bricks’, and one of Ted’s finest ever songs, sounds a lot more muscular live, and it was a goosebumps moment to see Ted, James and Marty Violence all harmonizing “I’m falling in love” as it sped to its conclusion. The only way that ‘Timorous Me’ could ever be improved would be for it to segue into another great song, and that’s what happened. During ‘Walking to Do’, Ted gave a shout-out to The Cowhaus (now the much less cool-sounding Engine Room), the scene of TL/Rx’s first Tallahassee show, many many moons ago. Everyone loved them – even the guy who heckled with “Play some songs!” and Ted stuck around afterwards to shake every hand and be in every photograph. If anyone ever tells you that Ted Leo isn’t the world’s nicest dude, slap them and call them a liar.

The Mighty Sparrow / Heart Problems /Me and Mia /Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone? / Where Was My Brain / I’m a Ghost / One Polaroid A Day / The Stick / Counting Down the Hours / Little Dawn / Even Heroes Have To Die / Bottled In Cork / Colleen / A Bottle of Buckie / Gimme the Wire/The High Party // Fisherman’s Blues / Timorous Me / Walking To Do /Biomusicology


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