True fans of the blog will know that Bitterzoet isn’t exactly my favorite spot to watch live music in Amsterdam. It has however hosted two great shows so far: These New Puritans and Titus Andronicus. TA was on a double bill with Surfer Blood who played last, but the more lasting impression was made by the 5-some from New Jersey.
When I got my ticket it was just for Surfer Blood. Their song “Swim” is #1 over the first 4 months of the Explorer 23 and their album is good, although at times uneven. So was their show. Frontman John Paul Pitts has looked into Ezra Koenig’s book of stage presence and moves and the band is youthful and fresh as the album is. “Swim” & “Catholic Kids” are great songs and potential anthems but the overall quality of the songs just doesn’t cut it compared to opener Titus Andronicus, who’s excellent 2nd album I’ve discussed a few weeks ago. It was a very pleasant surprise that they were added to the bill. As if you’re buying some fries in a restaurant and getting a juicy steak with it for free.
Starting with “A More Perfect Union” the band took off and never looked back. Bitterzoet’s stage is too small for a band with this energy. You can’t even fit 4 guitars on stage, the bass player had to stand sideways to leave some room for the jumping around of the other members. A collage of guitar sounds, piano and at times violins let to beautiful noise, broken at times by awesome breaks. You never know when a song is ended before the next one starts. They leave you guessing. The high energy led to some jumping around in the room too where a few glasses did not live to see the end. Yes, another great use of the Bitterzoet glasses: a potential danger for enthusiastic dancers next to being a nuisance during quiet shows.
Playing songs from both albums the power was more in the energy than in the songs itself, for that the lyrics were not easy to understand and the theme of the second album, war, didn’t quite get through to most of the audience. Highlight of the night, and one of the highlights of the year, was when singer Patrick Stickles joined the dancers on the floor during “Titus Andronicus” shouting ‘Your Life is Over’.
Surfer Blood may have more mass-appeal and hit-potential but the band that made a much bigger impression was Titus Andronicus. Both bands will hopefully play bigger venues next time around.