Apr 14, 2012

The Ting Tings / Stars and the Sea

By Bob Suehs


The Ting Tings

April 14, 2012

Ram’s Head Live

Baltimore, Maryland

Blending elements of music that blur the lines between punk, pop, industrial, techno, dance & hip hop.... England’s The Ting Tings are a 2 person band that might not grab your attention if you don’t listen to their music with an open mind & have a love for musical diversity.

It is funny that Katie White is the singer/guitarist for The Ting Tings because she shares no relation to Jack White who’s also best known as the leader of a 2 person band.


My first taste of The Ting Tings came from their single “Shut Up And Let Me Go” which was used numerous times on TV & in movie soundtracks. The song is a pop explosion of energy & glam...it’s about having fun & dancing around with no care for tomorrow and the thing is, if you only ever heard THIS song from the band it would be easy to lump them into a pop rock category without thinking twice.

Every song in the bands set on this night truly sounded different and not identical or similar in genre or style. The show started off with an epic synth driven stretch that had Jules and Katie stripping things back to basic backing tracks, live drums & vocals...this was the part of the set that delved into Muse/Coldplay material and it’s what really threw me when they started their show because I was expecting fluffy pop music and they came out being serious!


The stage set up was actually as interesting as the music the duo create and it’s because when you see a band like The White Stripes or Middle Class Rut you get guitar and drums with a few amps and that’s it...no frills! The set up for The Ting Tings stage was quite complex, they had numerous platforms that the members played on, several keyboard rigs, several electronic drum pieces, numerous mics set up in different spots on the stage and they almost brought an “in the round” feel like Metallica & Def Leppard used extensively over the years, yet the stage was one sided and it was a mid sized club show as opposed to a large arena show.

That’s the thing, the show itself WAS the caliber of a large arena show and The Ting Tings could very easily cross over to arena act if they get the right push because the 2 members of The Ting Tings pull it off amazingly well even if they do rely heavily on backing tracks and an occasional 3rd person to play lead guitars onstage.


At any given time Jules would play both guitar and drums at the same time and if you watched him close you’d realize he had his snare drum on a kick pedal so he could play the bass drum & snare with his feet while playing guitar at the same time.

My only negative comment about The Ting Tings would have to do with Katie’s guitar playing and this comes from a players standpoint. My first impression after watching Katie bang the hell out of her guitar was that she was limited with her knowledge of the instrument and almost every song was played in either an open tuning or her guitar was turned down low enough where you really couldn’t hear IF she was playing live or not....clearly she did play live BUT her style was not great and the way she held the guitar.... the way she strummed it, the way she held her chords....she admitted after the show that she only had one guitar lesson in her life and that statement more than proved my point because Katie’s playing was no where near as good as Jules! However, with this style of music it’s not really about virtuoso & flashy rock.... this style of music was more about presence, attitude, vibe & fluff so for that reason Katie gets a pass.


The vocals went from hip hop to pop and that was just how the bands set went....depending upon what song you heard in the set each song sounded as if it could have been played or written by a totally different artist.

The part of the set that did surprise me was the techno set because the band went from a set that did kinda rock to a set that was ALL keys & synths with boom boom electronic beats, strobes, colored lights & flash....it was like walking into a rave minus all the glow sticks!

My favorite part of the set was probably when they brought out a roadie and he played a fuzzy guitar solo over the bands treble soaked pop rock...this was where the bands set actually went into an almost stoner rock vibe for just a minute and that’s the thing about The Ting Tings live show....they defy all genre’s, they mix it up like few bands can and they truly are an interesting live experiment you have to see to understand properly.


It’s also an added bonus that lead singer Katie White is an uber cute pop tart who comes off nice both onstage and off stage....part of her charm is that she kinda reminds you of the girl you’d see at the local coffee shop serving you coffee... she’s down to earth and has this very “real” persona to her which makes her hot aside from the obvious part which is her looks. Strutting from side to side in short shorts which were a bit cheeky at times (use your imagination), thigh highs & a long shirt....her sideways baseball cap was slightly annoying BUT regardless, Katie’s easy on the eyes and fun to watch as she bounces and bops onstage.

Katie has tape all over EVERY button & knob on her guitars so she doesn’t turn anything and I definitely thought the heavy tape on her guitars was a bit much when she could have simply had her guitars customized to not have any controls BUT like with all things pertaining to this band, logic goes out the window, it’s very DIY and I walked away from this show feeling satisfied and content because I had just witnessed a rock show that truly WAS interesting, fun, unique & genre defining...that genre is something I call “Modern Confusion” and it’s simply a blur of everything!

I will also point out that there was a sea of pretty girls at this show...it was quite nice to witness because at most of the heavier shows I go to it’s usually not that way!


Stars and the Sea

April 9, 2012

The Side Bar

Baltimore, Maryland

Following the uber fantastic set by The Ting Tings I decided to venture over to a much smaller room to catch local favorites Stars and the Sea.

Shane & the boys were already a few songs into their set and I was impressed to walk into the club and see girls up front dancing and singing to the bands original tunes!

The bands bassist Brian I. was a bit intoxicated on this night & it was quite funny to literally see him forgetting how to play songs, causing major flubs and at one point Shane had to stop a song, go over to him and show him where the notes were because he was just too f**ked up to play!


Perhaps Shane’s funniest comment to Brian was, “Don’t move around, just stand still so you can try to play!” and Shane said that because any time Brian started to move he would forget to play! Regardless of the bass being played or not Shane & drummer John L. held down the fort quite well.

What actually crossed my mind was, I had just seen a 2 person band via The Ting Tings and what were the odds I’d stumble into another show & see essentially a 2 person band again simply because the bass player was too messed up to really play.

Stars and the Sea’s drummer reminds me of Charlie Sheen in the face and I was soooo hoping at some point he’d stand up and yell “Winning!”....sadly it never happened!

By the end of the set the band was essentially drums & guitar and sad irony would step in when Shane broke a guitar string towards the end of the set. The last song of the night was a Jeff Buckley cover & Shane quipped that the song would be a little out of tune BUT to be quite honest with you that song was impressively punk rock because it wasn’t perfect, it was loose and the vibe when they did that song was careless & crazy which IS what rock n roll is all about. This was actually a train wreck show on many levels YET I loved every moment of it because it sounded good, it was rough, it was raw and it was real....pure Baltimore Rock N Roll at it’s best!