Titus Andronicus at the Project Lodge

I don't know the exact number of people the Project Lodge can comfortably hold, but I know it is about 30 fewer than were crammed in to see Titus Andronicus Tuesday night.

It's a little disconcerting how frequently Titus rifle through lineups. This was the fourth time I've seen them live and featured the fourth different lineup. But I think I understand how it goes: Titus Andronicus is not for the faint of heart... Or people with other interests or obligations. This Madison show was not originally on their tour, but after the dates were released, frontman Patrick Stickles wrote a blog post asking for people to fill in their empty dates. As he said it, "Black Flag never took days off, so why should we?"

"Can you hear the words that are coming out of my mouth?"

Not only was the fivesome a strain on the venue's capacity, but the PA system had a hard time holding it all in as well. Frontman Patrick Stickles, understandably frustrated with delaying the set, finally just said, "Well fuck it, I'll just yell louder then." Considering responses to similar equipment failures by other indie stalwarts (I'm looking at you, Bradford Cox), this was a pretty monumental (and, of course, rock 'n' roll) moment.

What happened to all those guys in the back? Well fuck them.

At some point, people began trickling out the back and congregating under the awning where they could enjoy fresh air and the full sound. It was not a huge deal, as all of them eventually returned, but it served as a handy microcosm for the band's significance worldwide. On the outside, people stand around and smoke cigarettes. They take in the rain and have conversations. On the inside, strangers take off their shirts and wear as much communal sweat as their own. And all the while, Stickles spurs chants of "It's still us against them."

It's easy for someone to preach rock 'n' roll or a sense of community from center stage at Soldier Field (I'm talking about U2, Bono specifically, here), but it takes another kind of person altogether to be able to bring the altar of rock to a tiny art space in the Midwest.

There aren't many props decorating the stage at ProLo, and Titus aren't ones for gimmickry. But the one thing they do carry is an American flag affixed to the front of their keyboard like a lawn ornament, as if to remind us of one thing: This is Titus Andronicus' world, we're just living in it.

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