Monday, July 11, 2011

Photos/Review: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists @ South Street Seaport

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists @ South Street Seaport - July 9th, 2011
Review: James MacFie; Photos: Chris; Video: Josh Kesner;

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists put on a free show this past Saturday (a kickoff for the Village Voice's 4Knots Festival next Saturday) at the South Street Seaport to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first album, The Tyranny of Distance. Ted Leo awesomely decided to invite New Brunswick basement punk/metal ninjas the Screaming Females. And both bands decided to destroy the surrounding area with a viscous carpet bombing of rock.

The Screaming Females took to the stage at approximately 6:30pm and began pounding out tight, controlled punk nuggets for the gawking tourists to dip in delicious Polynesian or barbecue sauce (depending on their preference). After several songs the Females revealed their true form when they started serving up slogging heavy Sabbath riffs and wailing hot Maiden solos. I must say, the Screaming Females skew in a much heavier metal direction live then they do on record. Heavy like a herd of dinosaurs shooting lightning bolts at your ears. And that is no complaint. Each song in their set got chunkier, crazier, and more technical. This power trio, with J Dougherty on drums, King Mike on bass and Marissa Paternoster on the mic and guitar, were a well oiled machine of rocking that absolutely destroyed for their entire set. Jodi Foster once said, “They should have sent a poet.” I say, “They should have charged us money.” I almost feel guilty seeing a band that good for free. For reals.

Now we come to the man of the hour, Mr. Ted Leo and his 10th anniversary blowout for Tyranny. Before discussing the musical aspects of the show, a couple things are worth noting:

Thing #1: The concept of a show celebrating the anniversary of an album is not a unique one these days. Over the last 5 years especially, every band and their mother (yes, even GWAR's mother) have rereleased/toured-behind/generally whored-out an album from their past. Most of it is a money grab based on our generation's jones for nostalgia (he says in the article on Fucking Nostalgic) and our somewhat geriatric belief that things were better back in “the Good Old Days.” So Ted Leo is also celebrating an old album but... for... free? Hmmm...

Thing #2: He helped SET UP THE EQUIPMENT FOR HIMSELF. Even the most jaded greasy hipster cannot resist a man of this caliber. Ted Leo would find your broken body in the street next to your fixed speed bike and nurse you back to help in his own living room. And when the hellish demons of a horrible nether-realm tore a hole in reality and began to destroy the Earth... Ted Leo would stand up and save us all with his guitar (somehow). I'm just saying, Leo is a dude who cares. About music. About his fans. About the safety of the Earth (I assume).

So that is what the audience feels before the Pharmacists even plug in... just some good ass vibes prescribed by Dr. Ted Leo (PhD. In Biomusicology). Finally the big man and his pill-pushers take the stage. Ted says hello, acknowledges the ten years the band has been playing, then tells us they will warm up before the Tyranny run-through. Well this was the kind of “warm up” you wished every band would start with, a screaming run through of six or seven of the Pharmacists best songs played with passion and energy. But this was merely the appetizer... Ted pulled a punk rock wardrobe change (removing one of his 2 shirts), took a deep breath, and began strumming the opening to "Biomusiciology."  Then came the others: "Parallel or Together?," "Under the Hedge," "Dial Up," "TIMOROUS ME"... etc. And they were playing it...but was the band enjoying it? Obviously the crowd was. This was a chance to hear some awesome songs that probably don’t make regular appearances on Pharmacists playlists. TL and Co. were putting their all into it, speeding through the first half of the album with barely a mis-step. It seemed like they couldn't help but put an extra Mach 1 or 2 into these tracks and you got the distinct impression that that is why these songs are not normal fixtures in a set. After 10 years, The Tyranny of Distance is still one of my favorite Pharmacists albums but it's an old Lincoln while The Brutalist Bricks is a Porsche. TL for better (and certainly not worse) just keeps getting a little quicker each year and that informed this play through of the album.

After a short break, the band tore apart the second half of the album like Jaws biting Robert Shaw in half... musically. The highlight was the solo/breakdown portion of St. John the Divine where it seemed like the band would never allow themselves to stop and Leo did jumping windmills with the rigging of ships behind him backlit by the setting sun. The band finished up with an encore of choice selections then bid the crowd a good night. And as you walked away (or stood there half dumbstruck), you thought to yourself that not only was that the best free thing you have seen in a long time, it was just one of the best things. Period.


Below, check out a full set of photos of Ted Leo & the Pharmacists (my photos of Screaming Females unfortunately came out incredibly shitty), and also a video shot by Josh Kesner, which compiles a few of Ted Leo's songs from throughout the night...


  1. woooo yeah let's hear it for Pizzeria Uno! :)

  2. Great shots and the description is perfect. What an amazing show that was. Do you have any pictures of the front of the crowd?

  3. I don't, I was shooting from the crowd pretty close to the stage. Thanks for reading!