Disorder and control: Viet Cong and Freak Heat Waves live at the Biltmore

Photos by Jennifer McInnis

Canada’s two most buzzed-about post-punk bands, Viet Cong and Freak Heat Waves, came together to sell out an early show at the Biltmore last Saturday. CBC and Exclaim! have touted Viet Cong’s self-titled album as one this year’s most anticipated debuts, and Freak Heat Waves’ second album, Bonnie’s State of Mind, is shaping up to be Hockey Dad Records‘ most acclaimed release since the Courtneys went global with their first LP in 2013.

Freak Heat Waves immediately launched into a twin guitar attack with Thomas Di Ninno’s uncluttered drum patterns and James Twiddy’s deep bass notes having served as guiding pins. The band’s rhythms became increasingly complex, though their crispness never wavered, and they always remained perfectly in sync. Each player dropped in and out and always slid back into the mix with the greatest of ease. Lind, also the singer, mumbled his lyrics with his mic set lower than the rest of the band, which provided a soft ambience behind the four-piece’s bold, winding post-punk movements.

freakBonnie’s State of Mind is loaded with electronic effects, many of which are drawn out into minutes-long interludes. But Freak Heat Waves played with no such frills. Most of their set was jagged and sounded ramshackle: “A Civil Servant Awakening” and “Comfortable Conversation”, as well as non-stop cruiser “Nausea”, were just some of the songs that called to mind post-punk greats like Gang of Four, Delta 5, and Bush Tetras, with sharp, punchy, and ultimately danceable hooks. Freak Heat Waves were a time-trip to a bygone era when most people at the show probably hadn’t even been born.

Viet Cong cultivated a more hostile energy. Tension built halfway through their set as an ill-intentioned shoving match broke out between some fans in the front row – some middle fingers flew. The explosive “Bunker Buster” provided a much-needed outlet for that aggression though – the entire front section of the crowd erupted into a moshing mass, which forced some to take refuge cageside.

cong2While Freak Heat Waves appeared confident to the point where even their tightly woven and mechanical playing looked effortless, Viet Cong gave in to greater abandon. Viet Cong’s groundswell racket climaxed in destructive riptides during a very, very extended version of “Death” – the simultaneous crashing of two drum sets, two guitars, and bass was relentless – seemingly ceaseless. Most impressively, apart from this final destructive song, drummer Michael Wallace played with one arm, his other bound in a cast. But as a testament to the band’s skill, and perhaps above all their will, not a difference could have been heard.

View the full photo gallery of Viet Cong and Freak Heat Waves here.


Photo by Jennifer McInnis

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu