I was looking forward to this gig - I never thought I'd get the chance to see Ed play with any other members of the Laughing Clowns, least of all that band's legendary drummer Jeffrey Wegener.
Because it was at the Vanguard, and because Wegener's more or less a jazz drummer, I was expecting something a bit mellow, with Ed on a 12 string acoustic or something of the sort. No chance. This was one of the fiercest shows I've seen in a long while. It reminded me a little of the Wire gig at the Gaelic Club: this generation of musicians seem to be getting harder, louder and tighter as they age.
Wegener is one of the most aggressive drummers I've ever seen live: he would shoot each splash cymbal a filthy look a fraction of a beat before he hit them, and after a while I started to feel sorry for them.
And Ed. Praising Ed Kuepper has been done to death, and I've done my share of it, but this show reminded me of why toilets in venues in the 80s had 'KUEPPER IS GOD' written on the walls. I've got a built-in antipathy to the idea of the guitar hero, as should anyone who grew up listening to punk and indie in the 80s, and I suppose it's one of the ironies of Kuepper's career that the guy helped found a scene which has always had a lot of scorn for the very idea of a guitar legend or the value of musical craft. But Kuepper's got chops, if that didn't seem like a ridiculously un-punk word.
After the two sets, the usual clapping for an encore started, and very quickly changed into drumming on the tables. It kept going for a minute or two, and then I realised something very strange: it wasn't speeding up. Usually if you get a room full of people clapping in time, they'll spontaneously get faster after a very little while, but this crowd were keeping rock steady. It sounded like Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk'. Then it hit me: the room was full of drummers.
The encore was a medley of: Del Shannon's 'Runaway', Zager and Evans' 'In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)', 'I'm Stranded', 'I'm Waiting For My Man', and The Stooges' 'We Will Fall'. (That's for the guys in the toilets who were wondering aloud whether 'In the year 2525' was a line from 'Runaway.')
It was brilliant.