Behold the power of Internet! One day you’re an unknown New York art rock band with an alleged Talking Heads fixation (sorry, was that redundant?) and no record label. The next, you’ve got a glowing review on a famous indie hipster website and you’re selling out clubs three weeks in advance on your international tour (but still no record label).

Zaphod’s was crowded when opener the Hi Lo Trons took the stage, though there was still enough space for the fashionably dressed crowd to keep a metre back from the stage. While electronic percussionist Jordy Walker abused a guitar on a stand and guitarist Paul Hogan picked surf-style licks from his Fender Jaguar, singer and keyboardist Mike Dubue squawked like Andy Partridge circa 1978. The band has given better shows, but their high energy rhythms (buttressed by bassist Damian Sawka and drummer Phil Bova) gave heft to their XTC-loving arty post punk.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah like their post punk too. And yes, there is something of David Byrne’s quaver in singer Alec Ounsworth’s own voice. Other touchpoints would be Joy Division, thanks to drummer Sean Greenhalgh’s stripped down style. Guitarist and keyboardist Robbie Guertin filled the role of stage livewire, bopping furiously in both positions while grinning amiably. For his part, front man Ounsworth has a distinctive, knee-dipping twist and shuffle that let him slide about the stage during guitar breaks. Lee Sargent, who also plays both guitar and keyboard was a more stalwart presence (like his twin brother, bassist Tyler) though one with an apparent taste for strange synthesizer noodles.

Their set was received with considerable acclaim by the crowd. Most people twitched in place as they rocked their heels in time with the beat, although outright adulation remained tantalizingly out of reach. One standout was 'Details of the War'. In addition to good rhythms, the songs have a large number of vocal hooks.
They started their encore with a ringer: Neil Young’s 'Helpless'. Canadians are suckers for Neil Young, and double suckers for any tune played by Americans that mentions their homeland or its parts (in this case Northern Ontario). It certainly helped that it was a very good performance. One more of their own songs, and they quit the stage to loud applause.

An entertaining set. The band’s show could use some polishing, but as rough diamonds go, they’re a big one.

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Commenting On: Zaphod's, Ottawa, 4/9/2005 - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah with the Hi Lo

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