LIVE: Viet Cong Breaks Out Their Bag of Goodies at the Echoplex In LA (3/6/2015)
Amidst controversy, the post-punk quartet brings baggage onstage—just not the kind expected.
March 6, 2015
Los Angeles, California
As far as Friday night concerts go, things were somewhat tense prior to Viet Cong’s Los Angeles appearance in support of their excellent self-titled debut LP. First and foremost, of course, was the recent news that Oberlin College had chosen to cancel (with little notice) the band’s upcoming show due to the “offensive” nature of their name—an occurrence that has lead the post-punk group (the key word here being “punk”) to suddenly find themselves deemed public enemy number one of the indie-rock blogosphere.
Naturally, that didn’t prevent hoards of fans from showing up in Echo Park on a pleasant March night, as the demand for tickets was actually so large that the show was moved from the Echo to the larger, more dance-oriented Echoplex downstairs. The decision weighed heavily on openers Heathers and Freak Heat Waves, who were forced to play their respectively gritty and cerebral tunes to a large, spaced-out room (try to imagine Wipers or Joy Division playing at a disco venue, and you’ll get the issue straightaway).
Both bands held their own just fine, however, and everything was set for Viet Cong to be afforded the opportunity to quiet the chatter (both inside and outside of the venue) by blowing the damn doors off, as they have been known to do during their short existence. But in fact, the way that frontman Matt Flegel responded to the scandalous state of his group—at least initially—was to kill ’em with kindness, so to speak, by walking out on stage with a black sack over his shoulder like a goth Santa Claus, calmly handing out a variety of goodies (PBRs, Girl Scout Cookies, “Moon Pies!!”) to the crowd.
With the mood lightened, the Calgary-based foursome went nuts, expelling an hour-long assault of cacophonous beauty that included a few excellent selections from their “Cassette” EP, as well as the essential tracks from Viet Cong. “Silhouettes” in particular found the band in top form, with a menacing and glistening performance that couldn’t help but recall shades of early New Order, especially given that group’s similarly caustic (and tragic) origins—not to mention a band name of arguably equal controversial value.
Near the end of the set, during the sprawling, intense song “Death,” Flegel took an apparently unwanted banana from his bag of goodies, and began smashing it against the strings of his bass. The beaten pulp of the fruit added a strange yellowish coat to the white paint of the guitar, and ultimately ended up being sprayed onto his shirt, which read “FREE” in large, unadorned letters. And in tossing off the baggage that Viet Cong carried into the venue that night, “FREE” is a more than apt way to sum it up.
“Throw It Away”
“March of Progress”
Read our Breaking feature with Viet Cong.