Juan Wauters and Viet Cong Stand Out at 4Knots Music Festival
Viet Cong are most often referred to as a post-punk band. But on Saturday, at Pier 16, they resembled something more like a hybridized Southern/garage rock outfit. Their music is pummeling, but in a genteel way, which seems Canadian of them. And their loose rollicking group dynamic seems to be the diametric opposite of the internal turmoil that dogged the band Women, (which included two members of Viet Cong).
If Women seem like they get brought up every time Viet Cong is under discussion, it's only because the former were so appealing to so many, and because they broke up right in the sweet spot where they were just beginning to catch on. But Viet Cong clearly have a different approach, and their music is more effective for being less well-defined. Their set yesterday alternated nicely between loose riffage and well-coordinated guitar blasts during which the members of the band would not only play together, but also jump up and down on the stage as if they were one.
There's a joy in seeing a band that feels like it has the potential to be great before it reaches that point, like going back and seeing flashes of gonzo in Hunter S. Thompson's mostly straightforward Rum Diary. Viet Cong don't seem as if they're in a hurry to smooth out their wrinkles--their set pulled songs from their recently released Cassette EP, originally a tour-only release remastered and re-released by Mexican Summer.
The most exciting member of the band to watch play live is undoubtedly the drummer, Mike Wallace. He is thin-faced, with heavy eyebrows and a streak of dyed blonde hair and his head bobs along in time with his masterful drumming. Wallace is emblematic of the rest of the band in his combination of serenity and low-key intensity.
Viet Cong's set got harsher as they went along, a nice way to rough up what was otherwise a pristine day out on the pier. The band has an album coming out later this year, and fans should hope that it sounds as rough, breakneck, unrehearsed and adventurous as their set did last Saturday afternoon.
My three favorite things otherwise:
>> Speedy Ortiz frontwoman, Sadie Dupuis, doesn't move around much when she plays live. But somehow, she still manages to emanate an enormous amount of charisma. Even if you don't know anything about her (as my friend didn't), she seems instantly, obviously cool.
>> Those Darlins covered The Crystals' "And Then He Kissed Me" in the middle of their excellent set, rocking the hell out of it with little fanfare.
>> Security at the concert was particularly allergic to crowd-surfing, which began in earnest during Mac DeMarco's set. It became a hilarious pattern to watch random audience members surf to the front, only to be plucked from the crowd by irate security guards and frog-marched to the back.