This is the kind of thing you love to see, and the kind of thing that doesn't happen often enough (except with jam bands, that is). An independent rock band with an engaging post-punk sound, a clutch of terrific songs, and an enigmatic frontman whose brattish drawl simultaneously channels David Byrne and Tom Verlaine makes it -- big -- on its own terms.
This is exactly what has happened to Brooklyn's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (even the awkward name hasn't derailed their success). After selling more than 200,000 copies of its debut album without the help of a record label, and having last night's scheduled show at the Paradise moved to the larger Avalon and still selling the space out, CYHSY is officially a grass-roots phenomenon. That the quintet is a sensation armed with wiry, kinetic songs isn't up for debate. But the attention that's been paid to the band's Do-It-Yourself ethos is only part of the story. Equally, if not more, important was whether the band could possibly live up to the hype.
Last night, they managed to both feed splendidly off of that hype and ride the buzz of energy humming around the room well before taking the stage, and at the same time render it irrelevant by focusing on stellar songs like ''Details of the War," ''Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood," and ''Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)." CYHSY quickly dispensed with any doubts from the moment it lit into the twisting, tightly churning ball of energy of ''Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away," which opened the show.
Verlaine's strangled, skittering yelp wasn't all frontman Alec Ounsworth has inherited from the original art-punk era: his taciturn, stormy demeanor and laconic manner at the microphone made for a coolly compelling presence. Meanwhile, the rest of the band -- Marshfield-bred drummer Sean Greenhalgh; Hingham natives Tyler and Lee Sargent, and Belmont-bred Robbie Guertin -- gleefully bashed out winners like ''Gimme Some Salt" with metallic precision. One could hear, crackling through the hot wires, a smidgeon of the Velvet Underground-by-way-of-Luna here, a little Television-by-way-of Talking Heads there -- great reference points, to be sure. The fusion was something special and ultimately their own. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, eh? Perhaps the name wasn't so silly after all.