Feb 07, 2023
By Matthew Berlyant
Photography by Christophe Armero
The first thing one notices when London’s Dry Cleaning comes on stage, of course, is vocalist Florence Shaw and how incredibly striking she is. With the spotlight appropriately turned on her for most of the set, the audience at Pioneer Works were enraptured by Dry Cleaning’s hour-plus set, as Shaw’s tales of urban woe and dislocation, vocalized in a manner more akin to spoken word than anything resembling traditional “singing,” were set to the band (phenomenal guitarist Tom Dowse, bassist Lewis Maynard, and drummer Nick Buxton) playing their patented blend of repetitive, hypnotic, post-punk influenced drone rock.
Opening with the amusingly titled “Kwenchy Cups” (first lyric: “Things are shit, but they’re gonna be okay”) the set focused heavily on their 2nd 4AD album Stumpwork (released last October) with ten of its eleven songs (the only song from Stumpwork that was left off the set was the closing “Icebergs”) being played, including a long, hypnotic, drawn-out version of album opener “Anna Calls from the Arctic” as their only encore to finish off the set. The other seven songs mostly focused on their 2021 debut LP New Long Leg, with breakthrough single “Scratchard Lanyard” being played early on along with others later on like “Unsmart Lady,” “Her Hippo” and “Leafy.”
The choice of venue should be noted here as well. They chose a working artists’ space, a gorgeous three-story structure in Red Hook that less resembles a rock club than a multi-use performance space that happened to be merged with log cabin aesthetics, making one think we were in Woodstock or somewhere else in the Hudson Valley as opposed to Brooklyn. For as gorgeous as the venue is, it’s not really set up as a concert venue, so soundwise, it was definitely challenging, as the venue is cavernous and has many viewing obstructions as well. However, standing directly above the soundboard, it actually sounded quite good, so I have to give credit to the band and the sound mixer for the show still sounding great regardless of the challenges of playing in such an unconventional space.
It was also packed to the gills, leading one to believe that their next New York show will be in even larger, less personable spaces. Regardless, what’s clear is that the impact of Shaw and her bandmates will be felt wherever and whenever they play.