It should have been no surprise to me when Henry Clay People lead singer and guitarist Joey Siara told me he was also a fan of The Wrens. A Wrens show is a reminder of what a great live show should be: loud and intense, the kind where you find yourself swept up and dancing before your brain catches on. And that's what a HCP show is like as well. But where the Wrens yell from the darker side of things, HCP comes at it with a wry grin and an "all for one" attitude. To HCP, we all may be heading down financially, emotionally, and romantically, but we're in it together. So let's have a beer and rock the fuck out as we fall.
Their recent opening slot for Ben Harper at the 930 Club went much like when they opened for The Airborne Toxic Event in March at the Black Cat in terms of showing that not all opening bands are created equal. The Ben Harper audience never knew what hit them.
HCP did start off a bit sluggish. It could have been nerves because the 930 was one of the biggest venues they've ever played; or just sluggish because Harper added them as the opener just days before, which meant HCP had to drive cross country from Los Angeles over the weekend to make the start of the tour on Monday in DC.
But it didn't last long. The set was filled with many songs from their forthcoming record ("The Switch Kids," an homage to a fellow Silver Lake-ian band, Le Switch, really stands out, as does "Something in the Water"), and a few covers sprinkled in for flavor (including Mott the Hoople's "Roll Away the Stone"). This is a band that could teach a class on stage presence. It's a rare talent for a band to grab hold of a new crowd the way that HCP does, going from polite disinterested applause in the beginning to an audience unified in following Siara's lead to yell the "1, 2, 3, 4" count-off to a song about half way through. But because their music is so damn catchy, and because Siara is so damn charming as a front man, after awhile the crowd chatter stops, and the applause after each song gets louder and louder.
By the time they ended their set with a mash-up that started with Operation Ivy's "Knowledge," slammed into a medley of Lou Reed ("Walk on the Wild Side"), The Faces ("Oh La La"), The Who ("Baba O'Riley"), and ended with The Rolling Stones "You Can't Always Get What You Want," Siara had the sold-out crowd singing the refrain at the top of their lungs. While it's true you can't always get what you want, you do get what you need at a Henry Clay People show; you get a reminder of just how good a live show can be.