Drug Church (Photo by Kat Nijmeddin)
Hurtling into the Black Cat from Albany on a recent chambré D.C. night, five-piece Drug Church was intent on blowing out the collective ear holes of everyone present with their brand of opaquely fuzzy, post-hardcore rock n’ roll.
Anchored by a consistent and bruising rhythm section, and complimented by their trademark tonal glaze of dueling guitars, lead man Patrick Kindlon ushered the audience through a sonic spectacle that lasted just shy of an hour, an impressively long set considering they weren’t headlining the show.
As the night of Oct. 26 wore on at Black Cat, Kindlon did everything in his power to keep the audience fired up. Although the venue was not at capacity on this particular school night, I would wager at least 80 percent of the modestly-sized crowd were in the thick of the dance; whether moshing, crowd surfing, or simply bouncing rhythmically, audience-goers were happily accepting the fix the band offered.
Stream Drug Church’s setlist from their Oct. 26 show at Black Cat on Spotify:
Kicking into high gear right from the get-go, Drug Church opened the night with a few songs off their latest, and much hyped, full-length release, Hygiene, which the band dropped in March of this year. The audience’s reaction to opening number “Fun’s Over” was (ironically?) overwhelmingly positive, and the excitement was palpable as folks settled in to a night that promised a ton of rambunctious tunes. By the time Drug Church eased into some of their older tracks off 2018’s Cheer, it was too late to put that genie back in the bottle; the Black Cat staff’s lackadaisical attempts at enforcing a “NO crowd surfing” policy lost out handily to Kindlon’s continued entreaties to keep the surf up. (note: to the venue staff’s credit, they were striking a fair balance of enforcing the rules while not impeding too much on the good times. I can personally vouch that repeat offenders were not booted from the club, or even really remonstrated for that matter).
Although both Cheer and Hygiene focus on more of the same (read: satirical, quasi-nihilistic lyrics belted out in a gruffy, post-hardcore style, and featuring clever guitar work and 90s-inspired arrangements) from this provocative quintet, the albums’ releases significantly helped grow Drug Church’s reach and reputation, culminating in this tour with the venerable and well-established rock titans that are The Bronx. Most of the night was spent on hits from these two records, but they did play some older material, like the heart-pounding track “Banco Populaire” and the despairingly existential tune “But Does It Work?”
Watch the official music video for “But Does It Work?” by Drug Church:
The energy of the set didn’t wane a single iota throughout the night, though I thought I detected an especially fevered pitch right around the time Drug Church went into their back-to-back “Unlicensed” songs. They elected to end the night with fan favorite “Weed Pin,” closing out their production in style with five minutes of bruising and cacophonous sonic destruction.
If I had to sum up the overall theme of the set in a few words…and to be absolutely clear, I don’t have to, but here it comes…I’d say it was a charismatic and consistently well executed performance. The songs the band play aren’t simple: they employ complex melodic layers, dark tones, and jarring rhythms to manufacture a murky and all-encompassing auditory experience. The result is a sort of “wall of sound,” a wall that the listener doesn’t want to come down for fear of what may be lurking on the side. And Drug Church pulled this off in an impressively clean and crisp performance.
Shout out to great showings from the groups who book-ended Drug Church’s set, headliners The Bronx, who need no introduction, and Robot Monster, a young and affable rock duo hailing from Connecticut on their first tour.
As I stumbled out of Black Cat, nursing my bruised body as gingerly as a newborn babe crowdsurfing, and assessing the damage to my knock-off Fitbit, the lingering message from Kindlon tossed around in my already-rattled brain: “Gotta break some bones to have them set proper.”
(editor’s fashion side note – I could talk about how the ’90s are back with a vengeance…but I’d rather call out the fact that Drug Church drummer Chris Villeneuve was sporting a tattered Drug Church t-shirt. Laundry day, or bold, hyper-introspective statement?)