Shannon and the Clams w/ Pow Wow and Sex Forecast @ Cactus Club
June 13, 2013
But first, there was a pair of local openers. Sex Forecast, a survivor of Linneman’s Riverwest Inn’s annual All Messed Up event, played the kind of motley rock you might expect to hear from a band defined by randomness. They were followed by the foursome Pow Wow, with a short, energetic set of surging guitar and scrappy garage pop.
Then came the main act, and with it one of the bigger crowds I’ve seen at Cactus Club in a while. The band unfurled a kitschy backdrop with its name spelled out in Styrofoam letters, had the lights dimmed to near darkness and then left the stage for a crucial wardrobe change. Shannon and the Clams excel at the visual aspect of performing, reinforcing their retro sound with a style to match, which gave the whole gig its true time-travel potential.
On top of that scene came Shannon Shaw’s ragged, soulful croon—overdriven and fuzzy as if heard through the tweed speakers of an old record player. Her voice sounds naturally vintage, and is in many ways the group’s centerpiece; the motor growling inside its edgy ’50s pop. Guitarist and vocalist Cody Blanchard cut a convincing doo-wopper himself, picking out nimble licks in a bow-tie and suspenders, and when he opened his mouth, the picture really fell into place. He’s got a gravelly howl when he’s singing lead and an animated falsetto when on back-up, not to mention incredible sideburns and a finely groomed, pencil-thin moustache. It may be Shannon’s band, but Blanchard felt more like the frontman Thursday.
The three-piece played heavily from its new album Dreams In The Rat House during a set that lasted no more than an hour. And while the sights and sounds nodded so deliberately to the past, the act wasn’t all novelty. The overall vibe had the lunging, honest feel of a punk show, as Shannon and her Clams rattled along at speeds that threatened combustion at any moment. Still, as the band’s encore (comprised fittingly of a gentle waltz—for the couples—and a speedy punk song) came to an end, I felt disappointed knowing that soon I’d leave the club not to “cruise the strip,” but rather to ride home in my roommate’s Honda Civic with the heat on. Still, it was great to feel as if I had been somewhere else—older, warmer, and a lot more fun—even for just an hour.