Heat and kinesis: The triumphant return of Title Fight

Bill Thomas, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Outside, the February night held a bitter chill and the faint scent of cigarettes.  It was very quiet and very cold. Inside? Not so much.

Sweaty, shaking bodies stood shoulder-to-shoulder, wall-to-wall. A capacity crowd filled Wilkes-Barre’s Redwood Art Space to the brim, 200 rabid punk and hardcore music fans swelling the boundaries of a room probably never meant to hold a single hundred, let alone two. The atmosphere crackled with electricity as stage-divers flung themselves into the audience and sweat poured from the bows of several dozen banging heads.

The cause for all this heat and kinesis? Title Fight was back in town.

On Saturday, Feb. 18, the band played in front of a hometown crowd for the first time in eight months, with supporting acts Halfling, Self Defense Family and Pianos Become the Teeth. Seeing as how members of Title Fight helped found and fund the fledgling all-ages venue when it first started just one year ago, the sold-out concert proved to be a homecoming triumph for the Kingston-based band in more ways than one.

“I was going to shows at Café Metropolis (Wilkes-Barre’s now-defunct all-ages music venue) since I was 12 and 13 years old, so when that place shut down there was nowhere left to go,” singer-bassist Ned Russin said. “A couple of us from Title Fight got together with (Redwood co-founders Greg Gover and Matt Wren) and we found this place on Craigslist. It was vacant for two years or something, but all these kids came up and helped us build the stage, paint, set up the P.A. system, everything. We put a lot of our own money into it, but it was a big community effort.”

That sense of community is strong in the local music scene that Title Fight comes from and which the venue they helped create caters to. Before the group – which also consists of singer-guitarist Jamie Rhoden, guitarist Shane Moran and drummer Ben Russin – took the stage, flannel-clad Redwood regulars mingled among themselves in a manner more akin to an extended family reunion than a punk-rock mosh-pit.

Unfortunately for any “family members” who might not be fans of Title Fight, it doesn’t look like the band’s momentum will be letting up anytime soon.

After teaming up with SideOneDummy Records, the members of Title Fight have shown up everywhere from the interior of AMP Magazine to the cover of Alternative Press, in whose pages their first full-length album, 2011’s “Shed,” was named one of the most-anticipated releases of the year. They’ve also had the opportunity to tour with the likes of Rise Against and New Found Glory.

This summer, what might be Title Fight’s biggest break awaits. The band was recently tapped to be part of this summer’s Vans Warped Tour, alongside acts like Senses Fail, Every Time I Die and another clan of NEPA noisemakers, Scranton’s own Motionless in White.

“I’m not excited to be playing out in the sun for 12 hours a day, sweating my ass off,” Russin said, chuckling. “It’s like a rite of passage, though. I’m grateful for the opportunity, getting the chance to play to so many new people, different people, kids who have no idea who we are.

“Who knows? Maybe that will get people to come out to a place like Redwood and discover this whole other world of music they never knew existed. Even if it’s just one person, that would make it completely worth it for me.”

For more information, visit title-fight.net.