Live Note: Viet Cong @ Echoplex, March 6, 2015
First off, the name thing—get it out of the way right up top—while not particularly cool or clever, does not bother me on the level it does some others apparently. (I would only add to the conversation the point that “official history” tends to evolve, elevating and depreciating certain aspects of past events, wars in particular, as time passes, as befits the victors.) There’s a lot more to read online about if you want to seek it out and contribute clicks and eyeballs to the debate. Moving on.
Viet Cong, four bros, half of whom were in the similarly unGoogleable, relatively decent band Women, from the great white north (Calgary, specifically) took the stage at a packed Echoplex last Friday night. Right away, upon entrance, they dispel any of the darkness or austerity that their music and artwork gives off, with singer/bassist/ostensible leader Matt Flegel greeting his public rather jovially, a little loose with drink, perhaps, with an ill conceived comedy bit to give away random items from their backstage rider. It’s hard to blame the bros for having a good time, riding the wave of new found success. (The sold out show was bumped up from an original booking at The Echo down to the ‘Plex to accommodate more bodies.) But a little bit of an aura of mystery and seriousness is always welcome with the rock, when the tunes justify it. (As is a little style–T-shirts just don’t cut it, gents.) They would have been better served just launching straight into the music. Which of course they eventually do.
And, well, they’re fun and sturdy enough live if not all that remarkable yet. Drummer Mike Wallace is the stand out musician here. They race through their 7-song novella of an eponymous album, sprinkling in some from their earlier Cassette release, not quite capturing all the detail and variety of the recorded productions. These live versions are grungier, caveman-like takes on their own tunes that, on record, have a good deal of nuance and range. Some of that might be due to an unsympathetic live mix (the occasional synth was nearly inaudible).
Their stuff falls roughly under that all encompassing genre umbrella of post-punk, with some darker noise and spikiness here and there. On record, “Continental Shelf” is an all-timer, with its unforgettable riff and killer breaks and changes. Though here, live, feels a bit pedestrian. With high profile showcases like SXSW, Primavera Sound and Pitchfork Festival on the horizon, Viet Cong have the opportunity to hone their live show and clarify their overall aesthetic. The musicianship and craftsmanship are there already. But we’ll only take them as seriously as they take themselves.
For some real photos, see the hot gallery at LA Record.
Viet Cong | Jagjaguwar