Reviewing George Clanton @ Shabang Festival

text by digital-media

17 May, 2024

KCSB sent our top music journalists to Shabang in San Luis Obispo to recap and review the festival. Multidisciplinary electronic musician George Clanton’s performance was one for the books… and Avery is here to take you back in time with her. 

words and photos by: Avery Morgan

Despite not being able to name more than five of George Clanton’s songs, I was most excited to see his set. I begged my friend to camp out with me to grab a spot on the barricade (missing Sun Room) (worth it), but was surprised at how little excitement there was for the upcoming performance. Fifteen minutes before the start, there were only two or three rows of loosely arranged fans behind us. I normally don’t stare at the stage crews setting up in between sets, but everyone immediately stopped chattering when George’s neon hair appeared. George was struggling – there was a backdrop curtain they were trying to hang on a rod, but it kept falling down. I felt invasive watching them yank around stage decor, but they seemed to be having a fun time with it.

A drunk guy in the crowd started yelling at George: “YOU LOOK LIKE KEVIN BACON” over and over. George paused the set up, turned to us, and responded “I wish I could watch Kevin Bacon and Taylor Swift have sex with each other”. Oh god. I had hyped up George Clanton so much to my friend standing next to me. I got nervous George was completely wasted and going to be an uncomfortable watch. I had never seen videos of his stage banter, but after a couple of minutes it became clear he is just the silliest guy in the world. The other sets I’d caught had not satisfied my craving for silliness – pure surf/indie rock with no banter at all.

In between songs, he had a rotation of announcements every few minutes: “You are listening to George Clanton”, “I am George Clanton”, “I hope you are enjoying this performance by George Clanton”. I laughed every time. George introduced his lovely drummer by saying his old drummer died six days ago and she is the replacement. He told us the body of the drummer had not been cremated yet and is awaiting burial. He followed this with a “Hello… I am George Clanton”. I’m 98% sure that was a bit.

I never listen to electronic music, but after hearing his first couple of songs I learned I should. Despite the fast drums and layered vocals, I was very relaxed throughout his set. It reminded me of seeing Slowdive a week before; I got lost in the obscured vocals and guitar distortions. His beats were easy to move to, and the crowd fell into a rhythm immediately. He repeatedly dropped his guitar in the chaos of his songs. Each time he would remind us that his guitar was a loaner and he had already caused severe damage.

A few songs in, George began to dismantle the stage. While still singing, he started tearing apart the curtain rods they had struggled to set up earlier. He slammed them on the stage over and over, breaking apart the metal pieces. I got genuinely scared when he launched shrapnel onto the grass in front of the barricade – barely missing the audience. 

Towards the end of the set, George grabbed cans of beer from onstage and on the ground. He poured the drinks into people’s mouths and onto their clothes. Everyone seemed to be really chill with this. When he made it over to my side of the barricade, he picked up a half-empty water bottle and poured it on me and my friend. I wasn’t even mad. 

Everyone should see George Clanton live, whether you’re an electronic/vaporwave fan or not. His performance felt raw and unrehearsed, but perfect. At festivals, sometimes it feels like the crowd doesn’t care to hear the current performer and is just waiting for later ones, but George was the last set of the night on that stage. Only real ones were present. Everyone loved his humor and crowd involvement. I would love to see more diversity in genres in Shabang’s future, as most of the stages were dominated by surf rock acts or DJ sets. Switching up with George’s music saved the day. After his set ended, I meandered over to see Peach Pit’s final performance of the night!

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