Clutch floods Voodoo with Talent

Ben Shooter, Associate Arcade Editor

Clutch, a band that has existed since 1991 and gained a sort of cult following for their bluesy and funky brand of metal, had perhaps the most unfortunate slot at the Voodoo Music + Arts Festival’s Altar stage this weekend. As the band took the stage, the skies opened up, drenching audiences in heavy rain and creating a number of technical issues. The hanging parts of the PA system were visibly lowered, and the band’s crew could be seen rushing to cover the amplifiers with tarps. 

Despite these setbacks, the band played a heavy and energetic set, managing to sound great despite nature working against them. Vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Neil Fallon cracked jokes about the stormy weather. And despite the rain, the mud and the cold, Clutch fans, sporting patches and T-shirts bearing the band’s logo, stuck around for the duration of the set, witnessing a unique live performance that concluded with the band inviting New Orleans musicians Pepper Keenan and Mike Dean onstage. The core band, made up of Neil Fallon, Tim Sult on guitar, Dan Maines on bass and Jean-Paul Gaster on drums, proved to be a solid musical unit on its own. 

“Its just four guys playing music in a very honest way—we tend to take a lot of chances live,” Gaster said, explaining how he sees the band’s live appeal. “We tend to improvise certain parts of the set, that makes for a very exciting experience. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but at the end of the show we know that we tried to do something unique that night.”

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Clutch photo by Josh Christian

Despite over 20 years of songs to draw from, the band made a bold decision to play mostly new material, from this year’s album “Psychic Warfare” and 2013’s “Earth Rocker.” While lesser-known bands might have relied on material from more established releases, Clutch’s new material proved very memorable. “X-Ray Visions,” a new song, was a hook-laden opener, grabbing attention with the repeated line, “psychic warfare is real.” And “D.C. Sound Attack,” which was performed with Pepper Keenan on additional percussion, is also relatively new.  At the same time, much older songs, like “Spacegrass,” from the band’s 1995 self-titled album, were met with enthusiasm from the audience. “Spacegrass” in particular was a highlight, as Pepper Keenan lent his guitar skills to the song’s doomy riff. 

“Every night we take turns making the setlist,” Gaster said. “For the most part we are playing a lot of new songs off of ‘Psychic Warfare,’ for us that’s the most fresh thing right now, most exciting for us to play.”

With so many years of music under its collective belt, the band is known for combining a selection of diverse influences to create its style. While it might be referred to most basically as metal, it’s not entirely that simple. 

“I’m definitely a fan of hip-hop, more so older stuff, you know, late ’80s and early to mid ’90s hip-hop and rap,” Gaster said. 

With their Voodoo set, Clutch demonstrated exactly why the band has enjoyed such longevity and acquired such a dedicated fan base over the years.

“We’ve sort of been standing out for 25 years now,” Gaster said. “It’s sort of who we are and what we’ve become, you know?”