Bottom of the Hill was packed from stage to door, teeming with Ted Leo super fans in a hurry to forget about the pouring rain outside. Anyone who'd been drunkenly talking over the warm up acts promptly shut up to hear each word Leo uttered; he's that respected. The nervy frontman (who usually gets so insane onstage he sheds blood) for his band the Pharmacists was rolling solo this time around, proving to be the perfect chance for Leo's heart-on-his-sleeve, politically-tinged songwriting to shine.
Armed with just one electric guitar spewing forth thick, guttural chords and a raw voice that really sings, Leo raced through some of his most beloved anthems in that super-charged way he always sports live. I hadn't seen Leo in many moons (since 2005), and when he played older tracks like "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?", "Bleeding Powers", and "The High Party", it teleported me back to those heady days of my youth. This time around, they were stripped of all drum beats, bass lines and interfering reverb, becoming pure odes to and stories about the weirdness and loveliness of life, somehow losing none of their potency along the way. Fearing he was messing up his voice, Leo shrugged and said "We'll leave it bloody and gasping on stage here, and Seattle will have to deal with the aftermath". Hell yeah. He also whipped out the recently-debuted "Smug Little Supper Club", which finds Leo pissed about an annoying ex-girlfriend's snobby ways.
By the end of the night, a couple dozen songs had been laid down. Yet, halfway through, I began hoping he'd surprise us all by inviting the Pahrmacists onstage to finish the set by blowing out our ear drums with their delicious whiz-bang indie rock. It never happened. Next time, I guess.
Text by Laura Mason