By Carter Shelter, Staff Writer
Preoccupations are an unexpectedly ferocious live act. The members rarely engage in any sort of on-stage antics, but there’s an aggressive undercurrent in the way they tower on the stage, shrouded in shadows and smoke, burning through song after song of noisy post-punk. The Canadian group, formerly known as Viet Cong, brought that ferocity to Brooklyn for an all-too-short set at Warsaw Friday, Oct. 21 on their tour in support of their recent self-titled album. Battling through some sound issues throughout the set, they nevertheless left their mark, proving that name changes haven’t slowed these boys down in the slightest.
Arriving on the stage shortly after a fantastic opening set from Australian psych rockers Methyl Ethyl, Preoccupations dove headfirst into “Anxiety,” the opening track off their new album. While it was at times difficult to hear anything above the pounding of the drums and bass, and lyrics were almost impossible to make out, the group’s ability to construct organized chaos was undeniable. They revel in moments where it feels the show might fall apart, that the walls of noise threaten to overpower the song, because they recognize the impact of the moment when they pull it back together. They let the minds of the audience expand as they weave together blankets of distortion and synthesizers and cymbal crashes before they tighten their grip and plunge into menacing grooves as they did on “March of Progress,” or on their crowd-pleasing performance of “Zodiac.”
When the sound issues were resolved, the intricacies that make Preoccupations such a dynamic band came to light. On the one-two punch of “Select Your Drone” and a particularly vicious rendition of “Continental Shelf,” one could make out the cutting anger in singer/bassist Matt Flegel’s voice as he sneered out lines like “You’d never know you were going to war” and “The skyline folding in/Nothing is beginning.” The crowd’s energy also seemed to heat up as the sound improved, with a small mosh pit developing halfway through the show and growing bigger with each song, matching the slow-building intensity of the performance.
Though the show lasted only 11 songs and featured no encore, it struck as an honest reaction to the energy of the room. Preoccupations don’t want to fill two hours for the sake of it. They’d rather their show last 80 minutes and just be an upward climb until there’s nowhere higher left to go. Fans seemed to be anticipating the show’s finale all night, the ominously titled closing track of their “Viet Cong” album, “Death.”
In a 21-minute powerhouse of a performance, featuring noise-filled breakdowns, psyched out trance-like grooves and a drummer hitting his instrument with a raw power few others could match, what was most striking and applause-worthy was the way the band, without missing a beat, snapped right back into the song for a few bars before closing out the evening in a wall of feedback and reverb and sending their fans back out into the cool October night.