New name, same sound: Preoccupations took over the Rickshaw Theatre on Wednesday night in Vancouver. Despite a lackluster crowd and an opening act that was a.w.o.l. (apparently they weren’t aware they were on the bill), Canada’s post-punk poster-children played a helluva set to the half-full venue.
Preoccupations was on the tip of every music journalist’s tongue this year thanks to a name change from their previously controversial alias “Viet Cong”. The title change was accompanied by new material in the form of their second self-titled album (which happens quite rarely, less frequent than a lunar eclipse or a watchable Uwe Boll film) that has been met with high praise. Descending on the Rickshaw stage, the four-piece’s demure attitude may have been in response to the low attendance (apparently every show apart from Vancouver has sold out of tickets) or could simply be the group’s natural demeanor.
With fairly static stage presence, the band focused primarily on playing a tight and clean set. Vocalist Matt Flegel’s baritone came through clearly and precisely, although feedback issues were present too often to excuse from the sound tech. Both guitarists carried their respective parts in excellent fashion, with plenty of screeching highs to balance the bands overall low-register sound. By and large, however, drummer Mike Wallace stole the show: the incredibly executed “March of Progess” intro being a major highlight. With impeccable timing and more enthusiasm than the rest of the band as a whole, he carried much of the show.
In unfiltered honesty, it didn’t seem like the strongest show for the band. Between some technical issues and an underwhelming level of energy, Preoccupations wouldn’t have met the reputation that preceded them. That is, until “Death”.
For the final song of the evening, the band stretched their 11-minute epic from the album Viet Cong to the 15-minute mark (by my count), with an extraordinarily heavy, sludge metal-esque breakdown wherein Wallace pounded away in slow, repetitive fashion as guitarist Monty Munro assaulted his strings until the point of snapping. This one song could have been the band’s entire set and I think most people would have walked out satisfied.
Preoccupations is still a very young band with two solid albums under their belt and plenty of potential. Let’s hope they keep their title, their sound, and their commitment to tearing down shows with “Death”.