Ted Leo and the Pharmacists have been adopted by fans of intelligent, hard-driving rock music from around the globe, but his most dedicated fanbase outside the U.S. may be in Ottawa. Thanks to a close friendship with show promoter and well-known music photographer Shawn Scallen, Leo and co. make frequent visits to Ottawa to play to packed house.

For his latest sojourn, New Jersey band Screaming Females tagged along. The band has emerged from their New Brunswick hometown’s basement scene and is fronted by diminutive (and occasionally screaming) Marissa Paternoster. Despite being tagged as punk rock in some circles - perhaps to Paternoster’s occasional Bikini Kill-style ululations, a closer antecedent would seem to be Dinosaur Jr., thanks to her highly tweaked and furious guitar sound. At least one audience member was moved to do a whirling dervish impression as she blazed away on her fretboard.

Ted Leo’s set was greeted with the same enthusiasm, but less whirling around since by then the thickening crowd had made overly enthusiastic dancing a no-go. Always an engaging frontman, Ted’s cheery between-song banter and sincere thanks for the friendly reception after each song never slowed down a set weighted heavily toward his latest album, ‘The Brutalist Bricks’.

Kicking off with that album’s lead track, ‘The Mighty Sparrow’, Leo and band (guitarist James Canty of French Toast, The Make-Up and other well-known Washington groups, Marty ‘Violence” Key and lanky drummer Jim Wilson) performed with a clenched urgency switched into a crooning break before charging back for the tune’s finale.

As is his style, Leo decorated his songs with squalls and chirps from his ever-present reverb unit, dressing for his finely tuned melodies and stuttering rhythms. A storming ‘Where Was My Brain?’ and a ferocious ‘Mourning In America’ were two highlights from the album.
After a brief break from the stage, Ted returned solo to take a turn through a a cover of a song by Fugazi offshoot 3 and an accelerating version of 'Timorous Me' that saw his band return to the stage in time for a ripping version of the Misfits’ ‘Angelfuck’ dedicated to their Jersey-based opening act.

All together, a concise example of why Ted Leo is the man.

Set List:

The Mighty Sparrow
Sons of Cain/Where Was My Brain?
Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?
The One Who Got us Out
Even Heroes Have to Die
The Stick Hearts of Oa
Counting Down the Hours
Bottled in Cork
Mourning in America
One Polaroid a Day
Gimme The Wire


Keep Your Ear to The Ground
Timorous Me

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Commenting On: Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ottawa, 24/10/2010 - Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

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