You Can’t Hurt You Anymore
I first saw Clinic in the early 2000s. I was 16 and had bought the tickets primarily because I was
obsessed with Radiohead. When the opening band—a group of four men wearing scrubs and surgical masks—popped onstage and began to play, I was sceptical—and then entranced. They were touring their first full-length album, Internal Wrangler, which became, and has remained, one of my personal favourites.
Tuesday’s show saw San Francisco band the Fresh & Onlys open, mostly playing songs from their (very) recently released third album, Play it Strange. They’ve got a relaxed, psychedelic garage sound, driven by galloping drums and slightly muffled, melodic vocals. Vocalist Tim Cohen is simultaneously laid back and completely in the moment—his eyes will roll upwards momentarily, as if he’s been dosed, and he often avoids eye contact—this has the effect, though, of really heightening the moments where he does look out into the crowd. And point out crowd members to drive home lyrical affect.
The Fresh & Onlys played a pretty long set, and it did get a bit monotonous—my highlights included “Feelings in My Heart,” from their self-titled 2009 release, and a between-song instrumental build that turned into a noise frenzy that was quite different than the rest of their set.
Sometime between my arrival at the Biltmore at nine and the time Clinic hit the stage (this time in surgical masks and dashikis), the floor filled up with a pretty varied crowd. By the end of the set, I was completely taken by two female best friends dancing their hearts and soles out—responding to the music with moves that recalled mosh pits, trance and hippy festival feeling-it-out moves. Clinic’s energetic, engaged style seems to bring out the best in many kinds of people.
Clinic’s set ranged their discography—several tracks from Internal Wranglers and a whole bunch from their newest album, 2010’s Bubblegum. Internal Wrangler’s “Distortions” pulled many heartstrings in the crowd; the melodica-driven “Return of Evil Bill” and the fast-paced, hyper-energetic “2/4” really got people moving. Clinic also played my favourite track from 2008’s Do It—“Memories.” I have to say, I got excited every time vocalist Ade Blackburn pulled out a melodica or harmonica, or sat himself down at the keys on stage left—though Clinic’s a strong live act regardless (bassist Brian Campbell always seems to be enjoying himself), their penchant for experimentation with vintage instruments and those that fall outside of the range of standard punk and rock keep things interesting.
It’s a bit crazy to think that I saw Clinic about a decade ago—their live set is just as fresh, weird and intricate now as it was then.