The noise rock duo, 68, exploded through an early show at Philadelphia’s Voltage Lounge this past Saturday. If you haven’t already familiarized yourself with their music, their soundcheck offers a general idea of how different their set will be. The mic stand and drum kit are set up to face each other in the middle of the small stage, parallel to the crowd. As vocalist/guitarist Josh Scogin (formerly of The Chariot) is soft-spoken testing his mic, relatively new touring drummer Nikko Yamada take his position behind his kit. Both are in a pair of dapper suits. They begin to play together with a controlled chaos that the audience is lucky enough to watch unfold. Scogin takes the mic and all hell breaks loose.
Hailing from Atlanta, 68, a bluesy, noise rock duo, is definitely best served live. Scogin is a musical pundit, structuring songs full of raucous energy paired with lyrics that are both upbeat and melancholy in the same breath.
The two are in the middle of a tour supporting their latest LP, Two Parts Viper. The album is organic, but with a savage mix of raw distortion and energy. Viper is the band’s sophomore effort, with their debut, In Humor and Sadness, released in 2014. While Humor garnered comparisons to Nirvana’s Bleach, the chaos felt somewhat controlled and the instrumentation lacking — not ideal for a noise rock release. Humor left room for expansion, and the new record has moved in to fill that space with a vengeance. Two Parts Viper, it djents. But it doesn’t even come close to how explosive the pair is live.
Spontaneity is key when talking about 68, especially considering they never used a setlist during the entirety of the show. They play from the album, but with enough room to riff on each other for fresh inspiration and new interpretations.
Throughout the night, the pair played with the concept of letting songs collapse and rebuild on stage. Yamada’s innovating drum grooves and surprisingly captivating stage presence make it hard to believe he recently joined for this tour. Scogin’s intensity as a singer is almost indescribable. His vocals conjure images of Jack White and Kurt Cobain, but with an element completely his own.
At the conclusion of a frenzied fill, Yamada stands, pausing briefly upon the precipice of the stage and flings himself into the welcoming crowd. Josh Scogin found his way to standing atop the drum kit before returning to the stage level with relative ease. 68 concludes by derailing a song midway through, with Scogin setting his guitar on the speaker cabinet, allowing the feedback to run for a couple minutes, while Nikko kept frenzied time. Scogin knocks over the speaker cabinet and the show ends. He’s again soft-spoken while thanking the crowd, venue, and city while we are left to wonder exactly what it is we have just seen and where we can hear more.