Live Review: Dry Cleaning @ Ottobar — 5/19/22

Dry Cleaning mesmerizes a packed crowd at the Ottobar on May 19, 2022. (Photo by David LaMason)

The South London band Dry Cleaning are a bit of a mystery. They seem to have appeared suddenly, out of nowhere, but that’s not quite true. In 2019 alone, they released two fantastic EPs and then followed those up last year with the band’s first LP, New Long Leg — a brilliant record that’s hard to not listen to constantly. And in that short time they’ve created a buzz that’s hard to ignore.

On their first full US tour, Dry Cleaning recently made its way to a completely sold-out Ottobar. (Right before the pandemic, the band did play a short swing through the states.)

With the place completely packed on May 19, the band took the stage and immediately started on the groove-oriented “Leafy,” and as the bass bobbed up and down — ba dum dum, ba dum dum — until things burst out into a controlled mania.  Singer Florence Shaw —  controlled, measured — stood in stark contrast to the guitar flaying of Tom Dowse and power hair flips by bassist Lewis Maynard. 

In the midst of the cacophany, there was the voice of Shaw, providing a guide through spoken words, like a hand through the fog. “Just an emo, dead stuff collector / Things come to the brain” came through a boom and buzz of bass and Nick Buxton’s steady as a rock drumming along with the swish-swish of Florence’s maraca. And it was hypnotizing until the next thrashing freak out of Tom’s guitar.

Almost cinematic in those extended rhythmic lines, the crowd fed off the energy — that dichotomous pull between the gaze of Shaw and the other members of the band who bounced back and forth in the midst of cryptic lines and phrases. Moving from one jam to the next, the band seemed to have a lot of fun, playing off the crowd who remained glued to the stage. Reminding me of the rhythm and groove of The Fall and and the poetic stream of consciousness of Baltimore’s own Lungfish, Dry Cleaning created a space that’s both hard to describe but you know it’s good when you hear it.

Performing a mix of songs from their New Long Leg and material from their EPs, Dry Cleaning felt like a band with experience beyond their actual years. Songs like “Magic of Meghan” had an energy that flowed and pulsed throughout the club. It was no surprise to see the band come back out for an encore of “Conversation” after such an outpouring of applause.

Watch the official music video for “Scratchcard Lanyard” by Dry Cleaning on YouTube.

Dry Cleaning finish up their tour throughout the US, but definitely catch them near you.

The setlist:
Leafy
Unsmart Lady
Strong Feelings
Her Hippo
Sit Down Meal
Viking Hair
More Big Birds
Traditional Fish
New Long Leg
Magic of Meghan
Scratchcard Lanyard

Encore:
Conversation

Here are more photos of Dry Cleaning performing at the Ottobar on May 19, 2022. All photos courtesy and copyright David LaMason.

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