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July 28, 2007

Jay Reatard; Clockcleaner; Home Blitz: Johnny Brenda's 07.26.07

Jr072607_3 Once again I headed to Johnny Brenda's on Thursday night, that glistening jewel in the crown of Philadelphia's hipster bar scene. Granted, the place looks like a glamorous old music venue but on a closer look, as my friend that night suggested, there's no graffiti tags lingering on the walls. A lot of bands manage to grab the appropriate aesthetic markers, but in the end there's not much there there. Mind you, this isn't a call to arms for authenticity, 'cause I believe fake can be just as good -- sometimes better than the real thing, baby -- just sayin' that advertising looks are not enough.

And in the world of mainstream indie rock, Princeton, NJ's Home Blitz wouldn't last a minute. But that's OK, because Home Blitz has no designs on winding up there. Just like the records frontman Daniel DiMaggio pulls for his weekly radio show on WPRB (where, I should point out for the sake of full disclosure, Daniel and I are currently both DJ's), Home Blitz seem perfectly happy to hide in the dusty stacks alongside their inspirations -- namely, any band that's slouched their way onto a Hyped2Death compilation. When the band had to restart a song twice during their set, someone yelled out "At least it's not indie rock!", which garnered a few chuckles and self-righteous snorts amongst the audience.

But to that gentleman, I wholeheartedly disagree. Thursday's show couldn't have been a better textbook definition of indie rock if it tried -- I'm talking about the non-blog rock, painfully awkward, incommunicable, purposely mistake-ridden variety, however.

Hilariously enough it was local troublemakers Clockcleaner's cover choice that sealed the deal on my decision to call this a bona fide indie rock show. (Once again, full disclosure: Clockcleaner and I go way, way back. I've booked shows for them, handled their press and driven their sleeping, drunken selves to various American cities.) When any band drags the tempo of the Breeders "Divine Hammer" down to a sludgy stomp, sneers the vocals and it still manages to sound glorious, you know that song is absolutely immaculate in its conception. In fact, between this and lack of stage antics which the band has staked its reputation upon, I was about to chalk this up as the tamest Clockcleaner set I've witnessed. Then their guitarist, John Sharkey III, began to wave a metal baseball bat at the audience, I was proven completely wrong and I took four steps back. 

If Clockcleaner's approach to sonic death was messy and violent, then Memphis' Jay Reatard was the complete opposite -- quick and painless. I'm sure that if you polled the audience on this particular show, you'd get an even split between those who felt Jay's set was criminally short and those who found it perfect. As someone who's been crushing hard on this guy's recent singles, I was totally bummed that it couldn't have been, like, ten minutes longer. Perhaps if he had opted to play his songs at half the speed, it might have been the length of a standard set; instead Jay and his band -- most of which sported indie rock 'fros like the man himself -- blazed through 7 or 8 songs at lightning speed. Something got lost in translation, and gone were the reverby, echoey touches that made this twist in his storied career so charming, replaced with a furious energy that was as relentless as the audience's dancing.

Home Blitz



Jay Reatard




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i really like home blitz - i knew there was a princeton connection and i'm glad to know there's a wprb connection too... does my six months as a dj there mean i have to use disclaimers when i play/talk about them too?

Michael Tom

Jay Reatard pretty much included everything I stand for in the show (namely, dancing and white boy 'fros). If only it could've been longer...

muhal richard abrams

my personal favorite quote wasn't the indie rock one, but rather sharkey's "go back to west philly and crochet a cassette tape cover out of used tampons."
But its always weird for me that so many people call clockcleaner a hardcore band, since while they certainly have a very strong hardcore influence (see sharkey's sweet cro-mags shirt) they seem to really be in the tradition of the loud and abrasive alt/indie of the late 80s and early 90s.


Michael Tom, I couldn't agree more. However I'd give my left shoe to turn back the clock and NOT dance with the crust punk.


I agree with your musical assessment -- they're nothing like mainstream indie, but they display many components of what indie used to be. I think it's more their approach that gets them pegged as hardcore. CC don't typically play glossy, pretty venues (which is why I find their presence at JB's ironic/hilarious); instead they play house shows, galleries, old man bars, etc.


Maria, I've never been to Johnny Brenda's, but your entries make me wanna go!

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