One can’t help but wonder if, now that fabled Maryland groovers Clutch have their own label in the form of Weathermaker Music, this won’t just be their new album cycle: a studio release, a butt-load of touring, a live release, some more touring, some more touring, a studio release, a butt-load of touring, and so on. If that’s the way it’s going to go from here on out, I can hardly complain, since as any Clutch fan will tell you, the band kills it live. This was last documented on the Full Fathom Five CD and DVD releases, and the band changes up the approach with the Live at the 9:30 DVD by playing a special set and including a bonus documentary about the band on tour in 2009.
Any Clutch devotees, I’ll pause here to allow time for squealing with delight…
Now that that’s out of the way, Live at the 9:30 — filmed at the club of the same name in Washington D.C. on December 28, 2009 — catches the band supporting their July 2009 offering, Strange Cousins from the West (their first self-released studio album), but perhaps more notably, the set that night included the entire 1995 Clutch album. You remember Clutch, Clutch, right? Boasting such classics as “Big News I,” “Big News II,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw,” “Texan Book of the Dead,” “Escape from the Prison Planet,” “Spacegrass,” “I Have the Body of John Wilkes Booth,” “Tight Like That,” “Animal Farm,” “Droid,” “The House that Peterbilt,” “7 Jam” and “Tim Sult vs. the Greys” – which is, by the way, every song on the record – it’s one of the most formative releases to come out of the ‘90s as regards underground groove-based heavy rock, and it sounds no less vital today than it did at the time of its original issue. Yeah, that one.
In addition to this jammed-out landmark of landmarks, Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, J.P. Gaster and Dan Maines also include “50,000 Unstoppable Watts,” “Struck Down,” “Minotaur” and “Let a Poor Man Be” from Strange Cousins from the West as openers and “The Regulator” from 2004’s Blast Tyrant and “Gravel Road” from 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodus as closers. The whole affair is mixed by Andrew Alekel (Fu Manchu, Fireball Ministry, The Company Band, etc.) and filmed courtesy of Agent Ogden, captured on multiple cameras and suitably well-edited without, like the band itself, going over the top or lacking class in that “music video” kind of way. Of course, the test of any concert DVD is how long you can stand to sit and watch it without wanting to get up to get another drink, go to the bathroom, pick the laundry up off the floor or whatever else to secondarily occupy your time, and I’ll admit my bias here as a Clutch fan, but Live at the 9:30 fared better than most. Just putting it in the player is a big step as far as I’m concerned.
As you would expect of them, they kill the set, and when it’s over, there’s the second disc, titled Fortune Tellers Make a Killing Nowadays from the line in “Big News I,” that turns out to be a tour documentary following the band on the road, interviewing the members one at a time and talking to fans, crew members, dudes from other bands, and so forth, all of whom pretty much agree that Clutch kicks ass. Finally, filmed proof!
I’m kidding. The documentary goes much further than that, exploring the origins of the band and even standing with Gaster as he nerds out over using specific drums for specific songs and so forth (I’m not a drummer, but his excitement was infectious and it actually wound up being one of the most interesting parts). There were a lot of clips of band members walking around empty venues in fast motion, but on the whole it was well-enough edited to keep me watching with minimal skippage (mostly over the fans), and seemed to skirt the usual flat presentation that “bonus discs” usually boast. And in the “But wait – there’s more!” file, there are also a couple clips from 1991 and 1992 that show the Clutch guys as youngins rocking with not quite the finesse they have now, but certainly the raw energy of their earliest work. If you weren’t there, and I wasn’t, they’re an interesting curio.
So let’s tally up: You get a special live set, a documentary with band interviews and a look inside the still-forming Clutch legacy, old videos, and though I haven’t mentioned it before, an impeccably well laid out double-digipak (also courtesy of Agent Ogden), totaling over 210 minutes of Clutchly viewing. I’ll be honest, I don’t even know why I’m still writing. Live at the 9:30 speaks for itself, and like most everything this band touches, it speaks of awesomeness. Recommended more for established fans than newbies, but you really can’t lose either way.Clutch, Maryland, Weathermaker