The sense of community among D.C.’s musically inclined rarely makes its presence felt as strongly as it does during shows in the middle of the week. Last Thursday, Viet Cong and Girl Band made sure that anyone interested enough to trek over to Rock and Roll Hotel felt that sense of belonging as the two bands finished up their stretch of touring together.
Girl Band (ironically, a group of moppy-haired, handsome young Irishmen) stepped on stage to kick off the show with their intentionally-garish punk rock. Their performance took on a gritty, industrial quality, emphasized by the constant dissonant strumming of a distorted bass guitar in songs like “Lawman.” Vocalist Dara Kiely dripped with pure emotion, intensely gazing down audience members in between bouts of searing screaming fits into the microphone.
Viet Cong maintained the level of energy set by Girl Band, but took it in a floating, psychedelic direction. Airy, undulating, harp-like keyboard sounds set up the soundscape for a mathy guitar as vocalist and bassist Matt Flegel sinisterly sang “your reputation is preceding you” in “March of Progress.” Though Viet Cong undoubtedly play with aggression, they balance this ferocity with atmospheric grooves that slowly rise to a boiling point. This experience felt much more pronounced live, as the chime-like arpeggios the band uses in songs like “Death” build into an all-absorbing groove that takes the audience on a ride with no known end or destination in sight.