words & photos by Ben Stas

"I wanna make sure it sounds perfect, just like the download," John Reis joked between songs toward the end of Drive Like Jehu’s set at a packed Irving Plaza on Friday night (8/12) (presented by BrooklynVegan). The line seemed to acknowledge that at points during the band’s second sold-out NYC show in as many nights, things hadn’t cohered into airtight recreations of their recorded output. But where the show occasionally faltered in capturing Jehu’s brawny precision, it certainly succeeded in harnessing their primal energy.

The San Diego quartet, comprised of guitarist Reis, vocalist/guitarist Rick Froberg, drummer Mark Trombino and bassist Mike Kennedy, made a brief but impactful career in the early 1990s out of a particularly intricate and inventive strain of post-hardcore. Their dense and uncompromising songs retain a unique resonance two decades on, and it’s a thrill to have the band back in action for at least a few gigs a year. Spurred on by an invite to collaborate with a historic pipe organ, of all things, Jehu’s 2014 reunion has given way to one-offs, festival appearances and – finally – this month’s short string of highly-anticipated East Coast shows.

Following opening sets by retro rockers The Jay Vons (members of Reigning Sound) and Portland, OR punk trio Hurry Up (featuring Kathy Foster and Westin Glass of The Thermals alongside Bangs’ Maggie Vail), Drive Like Jehu launched into Friday night’s set with Yank Crime highlight "Super Unison" and proceeded to hit many of the fan-favorites from that 1994 masterpiece and their ’91 self-titled debut. The bite of Froberg’s caustic screams sounded undiminished by the years, and Reis, sporting a sparkling Les Paul emblazoned with fish stickers, proved himself as fascinating and energetic a guitarist as ever. The songs churned and raged with an appropriate sense of unhinged, feedback-soaked mania kept in check by Kennedy and Trombino’s unflinching rhythm section. Even if it wasn’t all technically pitch-perfect (an encore closing "Luau" did go a bit off the rails), the set was noisy and spirited – a satisfying exploration of a classic catalog.

Pictures of the Irving Plaza are in the gallery above, and the setlist is below. Pictures of the Bell House show they played a night earlier are HERE. We also just caught DLJ this past weekend at Wrecking Ball in Atlanta.

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Drive Like Jehu @ Irving Plaza - 8/12/16 Setlist (via)
Super Unison
If It Kills You
Golden Brown
Human Interest
Atom Jack
Sinews
New Math
Good Luck in Jail
Here Come the Rome Plows
Do You Compute?
Bullet Train to Vegas

Encore:
Caress
Luau