Times New Viking (with C. Spencer Yeh and Mike Rep) and Psychedelic Horseshit
Wexner Center, Columbus, February 14
by Ron Wadlinger

At first glance, the premise seemed interesting enough: as part of the closing ceremonies for the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts, Times New Viking was slated to perform a Valentine’s Day set of Velvet Underground songs. However, it can be tough for even the most dynamic of bands to play an hour’s worth of another band’s songs without sounding like a run-of-the-mill tribute act, and listeners of both bands would likely be forced to stretch to find more than a handful of direct sonic links between TNV’s explosive noise pop and the wide range of sounds found on the four Velvet Underground albums.

But while there may have been reason to wonder how successfully the evening’s proceedings would unfold, TNV eliminated any doubts when the group kick-started its set with a blistering version of “Run Run Run,” extending the original and locking into a gripping groove.

Flanked by violinist C. Spencer Yeh and guitarist Mike Rep, the band mostly stuck with an approximation of the Velvets’ live sound circa 1967, with the familiar TNV pop sensibilities mixed in for good measure. The 12-song set leaned heavily on the early part of the VU catalog, with eight songs coming from the Warhol-produced debut, The Velvet Underground and Nico. “I’ll Be Your Mirror” particularly benefitted from Yeh’s electric violin work, acknowledging the classic John Cale sound, but also tastefully adding his own elements to the mix. “All Tomorrow’s Parties” found the band’s vocal harmonies casting a brighter light on a faithful approximation of the imperial sound of the original.

The highlight of the evening may have been “Heroin,” with Mike Rep taking over on lead vocals. Perhaps recognizing the impossibility of capturing the brilliant cacophony of the original’s sound, the group took a more focused approach to the song’s instrumentation that allowed Rep’s vocal to assume control. Never one to shy away from rock theatrics when appropriate, Rep masterfully approached the soft-loud/slow-fast dynamics of the song in an almost matter-of-fact manner that adeptly matched Reed’s song with the haunting quality of the Harrisburg Sound Rep helped create.

The quieter Velvets moments received a fair amount of attention as well. “Sunday Morning” and “Femme Fatale” brought the pop-rock even further to the forefront. An inspired take on “Pale Blue Eyes” featured an overall sweeter sound, complete with extended interludes driven by “Be My Baby” drums. With Rep serving as the impromptu ringleader, the set ended fittingly with “After Hours,” during which Great Plains/Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments/Sandwitch frontman Ron House and members of Columbus’ RTFO Bandwagon joined the ensemble on stage.

The evening opened with a set from Psychedelic Horseshit. While the band’s own material never disappoints, it especially shined during its two covers of VU material. Both “Stephanie Says” and a version of “Sister Ray” proved to be worthy precursors to TNV’s set. One can only assume that somewhere Warhol himself was smiling with approval as Matt and Rich Horseshit took the stage sporting black blazers and Lou Reed–shades.