The Calgary band Viet Cong came through New York City like a storm this week, with two shows. The first was at Union Pool on Wednesday Night, and I caught them at their larger show at Mercury Lounge Thursday night. Viet Cong are a four piece which are made up with former members of indie rock bands Women and Lab Coast. Both shows sold out and they’re riding the high of their highly acclaimed and very exciting eponymous LP which was released last week on Jagjaguar Records.
Having listened to their album last week, I was ready for a somber and detached experience, given their strong influence of “gloom rock” like Joy Division. Surprisingly, the band was inviting and engaging, keeping the show loose with songs being called out on the fly and a bunch of on-stage decisions discussed loudly by the band. Frontman and bassist Matt Flagel told self deprecating Canadian jokes about Wayne’s World and maintained a gracious friendly air which really played off the serious tone of their songs.
Starting with “Pointless Experience” the band were all smiles, making mistakes that they later confessed to, and then laughing at themselves. They continued to roll through the set with excellent renditions of their album favorites “Continental Shift” and the amazing “March of Progress,” which showed off drummer Mike Wallace’s love of no wave acts like Swans and krautrockers Neu! Wallace and Flagel’s rhythmic throb drove the band with guitarists Danny Christiansen and Scott Munro adding twelve and six string layers along with synth and other assorted patched sounds.
At one point the band even decided (on stage) to play a brand new unreleased track which they noted was A) unfinished and B) a daring debut for a sold out New York show. After the song ended they asked the crowd if they should add vocals at the end to a howled unintelligible response from those around. It was a rare moment at a concert where I felt like I was witnessing the small beginnings of a band bound for much larger venues.
This sentiment only grew with the absolutely awe-inspiring set closer “Death.” It’s the best track on their album and the best track they played on Thursday night. I think the song clocked in at around 15 minutes, extending the 11 minute version on the album. It winds and twists through a dramatic instrumental buildups and cascading distortion, which devolves into crushing doom-rock single note bliss before picking up rocking out for the last couple minutes before Flagel ended the show with a vigorous and screamed final verse. It was artistically nuanced and emotionally charged, highlighting how great this band is. Highly recommended.
Article by: Steven Klett