It's not technically accurate to say the Henry Clay People's 2nd Annual Rock and Roll Circus "came to town" Friday night, since most of the acts on the bill are from around these parts, but the event was a spectacle nonetheless. The night featured electric sets at the Echoplex by a bunch of HCP friends inside, and unplugged sets by a bunch of HCP friends outside in the smoking courtyard. A kiosk of complimentary popcorn offered the only "official" circus decor, but it was hella good popcorn.
The HCP might just be LA's most collaborative band. Wherever they go, they're pulling freaks and geeks up on stage to sing, hammer drums, or wail on power chords with them. They're suckers for a good classic rock cover, obliging with Neil Young's "Out on the Weekend" Friday night. Even better, they'll cover a song by one of the other bands, as they did a crazy catchy song by New York's The Dig, who played with them. Either of these compulsions inevitably involves bringing a host of performers from previous acts on stage with them. There must've been about 30 guitars on stage. Throw in a penchant for costumes, and the HCP are a traveling circus wherever they play.
But more to the point, HCP's particular sonic charm has a carnival appeal to it too. The frontmen Andy and Joey are like the conjoined twins of classic rock (though they're neither conjoined nor twins). They're studied in the guitar licks, tricks and chord progressions that are guaranteed to provoke a pumped fist, and Joey's half-spoken half-sung vocals play like a young carnival barker, urging the crowd to step right up. See the bearded lady. The fat man. The lion-faced boy. And for the HCP, the crowds always oblige, howling along with him like they're all part of the show.
By the end of the night, the stage was crowded with caucasian mariachis; a native American chief freak-danced around stage while a clown-masked Juggalo balanced the stage mix. In lieu of panties, a stray Count Chocula cape flew up on stage. Then everyone left and Jordan, the keyboardist for HCP, strangled a rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" while a costumed Wayne (from Wayne's World) directed and the crowd sang along. Just another night for the Henry Clay People.
I’ve always kind of imagined the members of Fol Chen writing songs the way scientists would conduct experiments in a laboratory, with beakers and Petri dishes and controlled explosions and all that....