What a difference four and a half years makes, or does it? We saw this exact same bill at the now fighting for its life Cake Shop in New York back in December 2007 and it was quite a contrast to this evening’s festivities. On that show, The Clean just dominated despite the shoddy acoustics culminating in a breathtaking, ultra-noisy performance of their career zenith “Point That Thing Somewhere Else”. And while I enjoyed Times New Viking‘s set that night as well as the only the other previous time I saw them (at Danger Danger Gallery here in Philadelphia back in 2008), this time I felt like I was watching a completely revitalized band (more on them later).
The Clean took a while to get going. They seemed a bit under-rehearsed at first and there were some minor technical issues as Robert Scott‘s bass seemed a bit too loud in the mix and Hamesh Kilgour‘s vocals seemed to be buried slightly as well. Ditto for main vocalist and guitarist David Kilgour, especially on “In the Dreamlife U Need a Rubber Soul”, the only song from 2009’s Mister Pop (their last album) that was played on this evening. Still, this is The Clean after all and a U.S. show is a rare sight to behold. When they got to “Anything Could Happen” and “Tally Ho”, audience members (including some right next to us) danced and bobbed along, the energy of the crowd making me enjoy the moment even though by this point it was late on a school night and I was feeling sleepy! Had they actually played “Point That Thing Somewhere Else”, I’d half-expect Beatlemania-style screaming! What a reception! Still, a 50-minute set felt a little anti-climactic considering they played an hour and 20 minutes in DC the next night.
I’ll be straight here. I’ve always liked and respected opener Times New Viking, but I’ve never been blown away by them. The now defunct Columbus, OH band who reformed just to open for The Clean, a band they clearly idolize, and you could sense their enthusiasm at once again sharing a bill with their heroes. Simply put, they just destroyed. Perhaps the crystalline sound at Johnny Brenda’s helped matters (oddly it was better for them than for the headliners on this evening), but in any case, this was organ-driven, lo-fi, garage-y, post-punk madness pushed to the limits with barely any breathing room. It was exhilarating, if a little (or a lot) intense. If they ever play again, don’t miss them!