Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wolf Parade | Higher Ground | Apr 18th

A year ago, I saw Wolf Parade open for Arcade Fire in Montreal. It was the first time I had heard them before and my general impression was that their sound was particularly jarring but their energy gave them a significant stage presence. On Tuesday night, I caught them at Higher Ground in Burlington for the first time since that show in Montreal. My impression this time was 180 degrees different.

I missed the first band but got to Higher Ground in time to catch most of Holy Fuck's set. I hadn't heard of the Toronto electronic instrumental improvisors before walking into the grand ballroom so I had no idea what to expect. They were basically bass, drums and three guys hunched over various keyboards and synthesizers Including Hadji Bakara of Wolf Parade) knocking out some exciting trance-inducing electronica drone rock. They performed a bit like a jazz band as they seemed to float from beat sequence to beat sequence. It was really engrossing stuff. Not my usual cup 'o tea but an unexpected delight as an opener.

They even showed off their musicanship when one of their synths broke at the beginning of a song but kept making this weird pulsing static beep. Rather than unplug it or ditch the tune, they built a song around the beep that got the crowd going. At the end of the song, the guy finally unplugged it and said something like "I guess we'll never play that song again". Judging from the chants of "ONE MORE SONG!" at the end of their set and the activity (including me) around their end of the merch table after the show, I don't think I was alone in my joy for Holy Fuck. Responding to the chants, one of the guys in Holy Fuck came back on stage and said they couldn't play anymore but would promise to come back for another show. Hopefully, they will.

While waiting for Wolf Parade, I spotted the first couple of Vermont blogging, Greg (of Pages Within) and Jessamyn (of and Jessamyn), who had also just picked up a copy of Holy Fuck's self-titled debut at the table. We had never met before but we all share similar tastes in music and blogging. So, it was fun to chat for a while we waited for Wolf Parade. Jessamyn has been writing her blog since 1997 which in "blogging years" is the equivalent of about 367 years. In 97, I was still trying to figure out how to use AOL; little less even having the foresight to envision something like a blog. So, blogging since '97 is impressive.

After a while, Wolf Parade hit the stage. I thought they only had four members when I saw them last year but they now seemed to have five. The first thing that is so noticeable about Wolf Parade is how different each band member is. Dan Boeckner plays his guitar and holds posture like a 70's punk. Spencer Krug swings between and huddles over various keyboards like John Medeski. Hadji Bakra is almost motionless as he does his 21st century electronic noodling thing over there on his synths. And the new guy is banging on his guitar/bass strings and wind chimes with a drumstick like some classic rock dinosaur. Visually, it all seems so disparate. However, musically, they combine into a sharp driving pulsating rock chorus.

Since I saw them last year, they've released an EP and LP. Both of which are stocked with knock-down tunes. As a result of having listened to these albums over the last nine months or so, I no longer find their sound to be jarring. I'm conditioned to their voices and electronic squeeks such that now I only hear the strong underlying melodies and hooks. Therefore, this time I greatly enjoyed listening to them. The highlights for me were "This Heart's On Fire" and "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts" which have two of my recent favorites of theirs and sounded great live.

Conversely, they didn't seem to have the same fiery puppy-like energy they exhibited in Montreal. It seemed like a year of constant touring had taken a toll on their liveliness. It's understandable because 1) headlining a show in Burlington on a Tuesday night isn't as exciting as opening for Arcade Fire in a packed theater on a Saturday night and 2) a year of touring would kill the zeal in most people. I know my ass is dragging after just travelin for work for two days; let a lone a year of it. So, I'll cut them a bunch of slack. However, it still dimished their stage presence significantly.

After the show, I tried to find Greg and Jessamyn to get their impressions of the show but couldn't. Hopefully, they'll post their thoughts to their blogs.

Thanks to metal guru for the use of her WP picture from their Apr 9th show in NYC. My wife and son are out of town with our camera so I couldn't take any pictures of the show.

Holy Fuck | Tone Bank Jungle

You Ain't No Picaso has live tracks of two new Wolf Parade songs up on his site.

Here's the video for Wolf Parade's "Modern World".

1 comment:

jds said...

Glad the show went well. Wish I was there. Instead I watched 13 Going on 30. That Jennifer Garner is SO DANG FUNNY!

Anyway, I believe all of Holy Fuck's music is synth free. No laptops of samplers either. Just keys, drums, bass, and toys. Pretty sweet how low-fi and improv they are.