Much has been written about the evolution of Title Fight's sound, from hardcore-oriented debut Shed (2011) and more melodic Floral Green (2012) that coalesced their core foundation of fans, to the increasingly indie/shoegaze vibes of Hyperview (2015), their most recent album. The significantly mellower sound and muted vocals on Hyperview have disappointed some but intrigued many others, making the band more accessible to a wider audience.
Fortunately, the need to pin down Title Fight's exact genre quickly receded when they took the stage at the First Unitarian Church last Friday, for the second of two sold-out shows. In the ensuing 45-minute set (no encore), the band played a variety of songs seamlessly spanning their past several albums. They adeptly varied the pace, keeping atmospheric spaces between louder and heavier tracks.
An early highlight was "Secret Society," a standout track from sophomore album Floral Green that impressed many with the growth and maturity in their sound. (As an aside: the music video for "Secret Society" is worth a look - a young girl plays the protagonist in a story of obsessive infatuation that is equal parts Lisa Frank and The Silence of the Lambs.) Later on, "Murder Your Memory," the slow-paced first track on Hyperview, was especially energizing and showed off the nuance in Jamie Rhoden's vocals.
While Title Fight has played to packed audiences in larger venues before, like at the Electric Factory in 2014 (there's excellent footage on hate5six.com, a premier video documentarian of hardcore shows), it seems that both the band and its passionate fan base might prefer a more intimate venue like the First Unitarian Church. As one fan from Brooklyn who also saw them the night before in Queens put it, when it comes to hardcore shows, "The Church is one of the best venues, for its size, the fact that there aren't barriers, and how people really look out for each other. This is one of the few venues where people really take care of each other."
As with most live shows (especially those rowdy enough to inspire moshing and stage-diving), the best part is losing control and being immersed into the music and the crowd. If you can accept the fact that a Vans shoe is always about to hit you in the face (on the foot of that same 17-year-old who's taken 10 dives already), it's a sublime ballet to witness up close. The band keeps playing through, moving energetically on its own course, while a frenetic stream of showgoers jump onstage, weave around them, and dive back into the fray.
When asked what it's like for the band to play in Philly (two hours away from their home base of Kingston, Pa.), vocalist/bassist Ned Russin said in an email "The Church is the most important punk venue in Pennsylvania and R5 are the best promoters in the country, so that alone is enough to make for a good show. Philly has always felt somewhat familiar to us because so many people from Kingston move there and we've been playing shows in Philadelphia since we were teenagers."
Russin did not say when the next Title Fight album will be released. "There is always a new direction emerging. Every day we hear something new. . .and when we sit down to write, all of those things find their way into our songs. Hopefully there is always a trail of breadcrumbs back to the beginning but we are still figuring out where it's going."