The Jonathan Glazer-esque music videos for cleopatrick’s songs certainly suggested there was more to the band than a casual listen to its debut full-length BUMMER made obvious—a depth and exorcism of personal darkness and angst in the storytelling. On this cold night before the first freezes of the year since winter hit Denver the live band provided a personal warmth that contrasted a bit with the timbre of some of the music. The scorching and pile-driver cadence guitar work and percussion combined with introspective passages and what proved to be a vulnerability mixed in with the dynamic aggression of much of the performance. In moments Luke Gruntz’s vocals hit your ears like Josh Homme and the informal arrangements of the songs reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age but more fuzzy and raw.
What was not at all obvious from the album, though there are elements of musique concrète at the end of songs and of course the track “Ya,” was how the band deployed ambient soundscapes between songs whether processed beats from Ian Fraser or delay manipulation from Gruntz’s guitar or pre-recorded keyboard atmospheres and the like. It showcased how sure this is amped up rock music but some of the sensibility and attitude is out of hip-hop and electronic music, even the way the songs are arranged. For various songs Gruntz’s vocal cadence is borderline spoken word but more akin to rapping. The hybrid style reminded me of early Kasabian where grimy, psychedelic post-punk and electronic music melded together seamlessly.
“Victoria Park” hit hard and the visceral motion of Gruntz and Fraser seemed to be working in perfect lock step while exuding an eruptive spontaneity, the music seeming to burst from inside them yet orchestrated for all involved in the show to get swept up in the momentum. “Family Van” provided surprisingly nuanced moments of nearly unhinged energy and tenderness as a way of coping with strong, mixed emotions and memories of desperate times. “2008” was a calm moment amidst a maelstrom of activity and sounds. At one point Fraser introduced a song with hits on a drum pad to create a resounding low end bass tone riff that gave a soundscape the likes you might more likely hear at an EDM or deep house show. It was just not just some neo-grunge thing, not a rap rock show or try hard eclecticism. It wasn’t a macho display of aggression though it was an expression of a release of frustration in a way that was easy to relate to, especially these days with collective anxiety at a high state. In fact, during one song some people were getting a little too rowdy with moshing and Gruntz asked if people could chill it with that and jump up and down. Which is the original punk way and although cleopatrick seem to have created a soundtrack for primal release of tension, it was not one that lacked for the recognition of the frailty and humanity of others as the band’s lyrics make abundantly clear if you take the time to read them.
Toward the end of the set, Gruntz told the audience that normally he and Fraser would meet people after the show and sign records but with the pandemic still raging and a long tour ahead they had pre-signed a bunch of vinyl. And he was good to his word as seen below adding another reason to like this Canadian duo beyond just the music.