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Mission Creek: George Clanton and When You Have a Déjà Vu of a Déjà Vu of a Déjà Vu…

People sort of sat down in their seats before all piling towards the stage to get closer to George Clanton before he started his set. It was Friday at The Englert, and everyone was fully in the thrall of Mission Creek, totally geeked. There was a lot of stupid babble, about music of course. Music that had happened, or music that would happen soon or after this set. We were all waiting for it to happen, we were all wavering. In a fraction of a second all the overhead lights turned off and synths started. I’d seen George Clanton once before on tour, in Madison, Wisconsin in late September of 2023 on a makeshift road trip with my friends, so this scene was familiar. Lots of lights, stacks of static riddled TVs and the enigmatic bravura brought by Clanton himself as he struts out on stage with his black shades, and his harsh bleached hair. 

Assisting him on drums was Jack Chaffer from full body 2, the band he’d been touring with. Rows and rows of bright lights were flickering faster, making letters and shapes. Somewhere a machine spurted out smoke, before the bell like synths of “Livin’ Loose”, off his album Slide, started the show. It all felt immense. Enormous now, the sound was all around us and everyone was moving as the beat pulsed. Clanton wailed out “If you don’t hurt me I won’t hurt you back/Don’t want to lose you.”

Image via Alyssa Leicht

We had then entered into timelessness, a wild feeling that happens when a show becomes more than a show and becomes everything, all that’s important is in the moment. No outside world, only the here-and-now in the crowd. You can’t process thought. An overwrought emotion akin to ecstasy as you’re squeezed against some raving fan screaming in your ear, skin against skin, sweat from shoving and jumping. Lasers.

A new song, I don’t remember which one, maybe the title track off his latest album, Ooh Rap I Ya, moved us into a more trance like atmosphere with its juvenile enthusiasm. 3D models of abstract blobs of color, yellow, orange, neon greens and wobbling blues, were on the TV sets while Clanton was throwing himself upon the towers before descending into the audience. Some people were standing still and hitting a vape in a small circle. Clanton grabbed water bottles, opened and flung them at the crowd. It was all so wet. Lots of sensation. I think I hugged him at one point. 

“Justify Your Life”, “Make It Forever”, “Punching Down”, all bangers. Absolute anthems. Clanton’s discography contains a clear eyed understanding of nostalgia, the misty undercurrents of memory and how it can layer and change, even in the span of a song. Nostalgia itself should be true. An intimate remembrance hyper-specific to one’s sense of self and lived experience. Recalling childish terrors, diving in the deep of what comes at night before the onslaught of sleep and dream. What a life can hold. We all exist in specific contexts.

Nostalgia currently in the cultural landscape is more a means to capitalize on itself for the sake of escapism, profit, and product rather than a pure memory that can sometimes come to you. Nostalgia now is a constant regurgitation of defunct memory until nothing means anything anymore and you find yourself existing in a present already bogged down with the past. We are consistently told to remember when. To wallow in it when times were better and more free, and when we weren’t burdened by the world. 

Image via Cat Dooley

Nostalgia. It’s all artifice, but that’s what makes it alluring. The genre where Clanton first established himself, vaporwave, is essentially predicated upon creating false nostalgia. There, accelerated hyper-capitalist renderings of modern life are meshed with contemporary internet aesthetics, all while reworking ’80s and ’90s music for a total tranced out experience. It’s a genre filled with ghosts. Clanton’s image isn’t pure. The flashing lights became emojis, old PlayStation logos, you might have seen some scatterings of Neon Genesis Evangelion and other anime flash briefly on the many TVs. Clanton has crafted his stage persona to encapsulate the terminally online, future sound of music, combining Internet aesthetics and production with glittering pop-hooks reminiscent of the Backstreet Boys and Seal. However, it’s his sheer earnestness and sincerity that cuts through all the artifice to get at real vulnerable emotion. 

It’s easy to grow disillusioned on the Internet. Like Sisyphus, we’re bound to doom scrolling: you will hit the wall and you will hit the vape. Most of his music is focused on looking back on the past. Ooh Rap I Ya’s lead single, which served as the show closer, is literally called “I Been Young”. With this though, both Clanton’s musical talent and ferocity for live stage shows can only ground you in an unadulterated present. Yeah I raved, and it felt good. Writing this now, I can’t shake a small frustration with not being able to fully articulate how alive a show can make you feel, the physicality and passion provided by the spectacle. I took two low quality photos of the show. Looking back, mean nothing to me now. I have similar photos from when I saw Clanton months ago in Madison.