The Henry Clay People
Spaceland, Saturday, January 10th
(all photos by Timothy Norris)
The third of five new songs that the reconfigured Henry Clay People debuted at Spaceland starts with the lyric, “It was the end of an empire,” a frighteningly zeitgeist-seizing sentiment made all the more poignant when it's being sung by HCP's Joey Siara — a preppy looking twenty-something with a penchant for bratty feedback and petulant speak-singing; kind of a frat-house everyman, rather than an apocalyptic pundit.
But the Henry Clay People may very well be the band for their time and place: they play indie-rock imbued with the live-show combustion that quickly propelled the Cold War Kids from the tiny backroom stage at Silverlake Lounge to the main stage at Coachella — but HCP do it with a sophisticated sense of Pavement-y purpose that only belies their overarching sense of fun. Their of-the-era philosophy isn't brand-new, either: dig into the Glendale-based band's small, sweet back catalog (highlighted by last year's stellar “For Cheap or For Free”) and you'll find prescient songs about “working part time/all the time”, that start “I remember what she said/we were living in debt”; and lamenting the state of their peers: “this aint a scene/it's just a generation caught in between.”
Saturday's show comes at a seminal point for the young band: they're about to head on their first national tour with their longtime friends the Airborne Toxic Event, which'll be the first chance they've had to leave the west coast and see if they can sustain the buzz they've built in LA; it also was their first sound with two new members, drummer Mike Hopkins and bassist Jonathan Price, both yoinked from fellow local rockers We Made This Sound. Shockingly, that didn't make the band any more tentative: in fact, when Siara launched himself in the audience during “Working Part Time,” the relentless chugging behind him never even teetered; if anything, the new guys have made him more confident.
That's all some bold praise from a somewhat-biased writer for a band on the brink (full disclosure: I've been plucked from the audience to play guitar with HCP in the past), but attendance (despite being an unnannounced, past-midnight set, the club was packed) and the band's own enthusiasm support it. That this is their moment to take advantage of hasn't seemed to go over the band's head, either: that song that starts with the lyric about the empire's demise includes this appropriately recurring sentiment: “and all I'd see/was golden opportunity.” Good luck on the road, kids. (Jeff Miller)