Saturday, July 12, 2008

Concert Review: Wolf Parade

“Shit gets crazy.”

Ever since one of my friends introduced me to Wolf Parade (stating “Give me your eyes, I need the sunshine” in a dead pan, almost creepy tone) I’ve been obsessed. As I said in my last WP post, “Apologies…” is one of my all time favorite albums, and its follow-up “… Zoomer”, while not living up to the debut, is an all around solid album. When tickets went on sale for a mere twenty dollars, I snapped them up as soon as I could. In the time that I knew I was going to see them, I went to several other shows (Iron & Wine, Radiohead, Modest Mouse) and while these are some of my favorite artists, the Wolf Parade show was still the one I was anticipating most.

On the road trip up to Chicago, I began to think about the show more critically. I had been building it up so long, constructing the perfect set list and such. After months of anticipation and other stellar shows, not to mention being only SLIGHTLY disappointed with their second LP, I couldn’t help but worry that Spencer, Dan, and crew wouldn’t be able to live up to my self-built hype. Spending a day wandering around Chicago took my mind off these fears, however, especially the advice I received from one very outgoing and outspoken cabbie. After criticizing our pipe smoking, we were practically given a paraphrased version of Alan Arkin’s speech from Little Miss Sunshine. “You, you’re young, you’re not babies, but you’re young. You should no be smoking, you should be fucking the girls. Find girls, fuck them”. Hiding my smirk, I thanked him, but he continued. “I have two kids, I tell same thing every day. To drink, some, but not too much… es good. To go school, great. But to fuck… excellent.” Words of wisdom I’ll never forget.

Finally, the day of the show. We headed out about an hour early to sit in line outside the House of Blues. With only about twenty or so ahead of us, we knew we’d have a decent spot in the pit. Eventually, the doors opened and we nabbed second row center, about four or five feet from the stage. Striking up a conversation with someone directly in front of us, we got to hear about their past experiences at Wolf Parade shows, from their opening for Arcade Fire to their headlining tour. Asking what it was like yielded the dry response, “Shit gets crazy.”

I was really pleased with opening band Listening Party. I had never, and still haven’t, heard anything actually recorded by them so I was hesitant seeing only two people come on stage, one with a guitar and the other with a drum set made up of a plastic trashcan, a Home Depot bucket, and a cowbell, all held together by duct tape. Both men had great voices and were very talented musicians. Most of their stuff was backed by either prerecorded tracks or loops made on the spot. They had a pretty stellar set, and I would love seeing them live again.

The moment was at hand, and the crowd knew it. The pit, where once everyone was standing calmly, giving each other space, had suddenly become full to bursting with everyone trying to inch their way forward. I was separated from my party, them moving backward and I, luckily enough, being pushed to front row center, clutching onto the protective metal barrier to keep my new spot. After a brief announcement about where the emergency exits were located, the curtain rose and Wolf Parade took the stage. The crowd, of course, went insane. With that, Dan grabbed his guitar and hit the opening chords of “Language City”, one of Zoomer’s better tracks and a phenomenal opener. The band’s intensity was apparent early on as Dan screamed and spit the vocals and Spencer slammed his keyboard, all the way up to its climactic finish. With the first song alone, the band set the tone for the rest of the night.

Up next were a few more songs from their second album, including “Call It a Ritual” and “The Grey Estates”. I was completely surprised when, very early in their set, came “Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts”, the first song all night from Apologies. Once the crowd recognized the opening notes, shit got crazy. Everyone literally exploded. Where there was once at least some order, there was now just mass hysteria. To put it simply, it was awesome. One of the greatest aspects of the show was how the band really kicked up every song, especially those from Zoomer. Even my least favorite Wolf Parade song, “An Animal in Your Care”, was just incredible to see live, and contrary to my thoughts prior to show, I really enjoyed it. Following that came my favorite track off their new album, “Fine Young Cannibals”. While I loved every single second they were playing it, I noticed something that disappointed me as I was the only one to yell out in joy during the opening chords. The crowd, at least the people surrounding me, became subdued and much less responsive during Zoomer songs, and many people kept turning to me and asking, “What’s this one? What’s it from?” Regardless, “Fine Young Cannibals” was still one of the highlights of the show.

Next up were a couple more from Apologies, “Shine a Light” and “Grounds for Device”. The latter came as a very pleasant surprise. Having talked to several people before the show, I learned that none of them had never seen or heard of “Grounds…” being played live. Once again, the opening chords alone erupted the crowd. The crowd throughout the show was hit or miss, depending on where one was standing. According to some reports, some parts got overly violent. Also, apparently one intoxicated fan decided to not lose his spot by urinating in the middle of the full-to-bursting pit. At one point, Spencer turned to the audience, pleading, “Hey guys, be nice to everyone, the crowd surfing stuff. We’re all just here to have a good time.” Where I was everyone was mostly considerate of not totally destroying others while still jumping around, bumping, having a good time. However, it was a little before this point that a guy about a foot and a half taller than me and at least twice my weight began beating on me to try to get his way to the front row. Most of his time was spent attempting to slam me against the fence or beating on my back, but I knew I wouldn’t lose ground at this show. At the same time, I was trying to protect a girl next to me who was short enough that only her head popped above the guard rail. For several songs I had to balance between keeping my spot and protecting this tiny girl from getting smashed by this meat head. Eventually, he worked his way right beside me by pushing away the person formally standing next to me. “What the fuck?” he yelled out, clearly upset about losing his position. “DUDE, I MISSED THESE GUYS WHEN THEY PLAYED WITH ARCADE FIRE I’M SORRY BUT I HAVE TO DO THIS”. “Why’d you miss it?” the recently moved man asked. “SKIN CANCER, DUDE, SKIN CANCER. FUCKIN’ SUCKED, SKIN CANCER.”

The band took a brief break, all of them meeting on the center of the stage to have a brief discussion. Spencer looked a bit worried, asking something along the lines of “Are you sure?”, but he returned to his keyboard. He leaned forward, “Okay, so we haven’t tried this one live yet, but we’re gonna give it a shot.” With that, Spencer began with the familiar, eerie sounds and vocals of “Bang Your Drum”. For its first live playthrough, the song went without a hitch, fitting perfectly with the rest of the show. Once again, I had a new found respect for another Zoomer song. “Bang Your Drum” transitioned without a break into “Shine a Light”, another song that worked to jumpstart the crowd into even more of a frenzy, followed by “California Dreamer”. “This Heart’s On Fire” came next, and once again the crowd showed their love for any Apologies song. With every single song, the crowd kept building up and building up, screaming along louder, dancing, jumping around more furiously. This was the perfect lead up to the normal set’s ender, “Kissing the Beehive”. When I first heard this song, all I could think about how grand it scale was, just how huge it sounded. Prior to the show, I knew this would be a highlight, but the guys really made it more than anything I ever would have expected. As Dan’s gritty, guttural, pure-rock voice battled with Spencer’s all-over-the-place vocals, the whole band slammed out the monstrous tune. Eleven minutes of pure, intense rock. The final note rung out, and the band left the stage.

With the crowd begging for more, the band came out once again. They had already played all of At Mount Zoomer, so everyone knew it was Apologies or EP material for the encore. Once again, it would be Dan who began the song, playing the opening of “It’s a Curse”. Finally, the moment was at hand. Everyone in the crowd had been waiting for it. The instantly recognizable opening notes of “I’ll Believe in Anything”. Once again, shit got crazy. As Spencer screamed out, “Give me / Your eyes / I need/ The sunshine”, the whole venue went insane. Wolf Parade’s show had easily turned into the most intense pit I had ever been in. The entire crowd became united, singing (well, screaming) to each other, “I’ll believe in anything if you’ll believe in anything!” All the band members changed various bits of it, Arlen switching up the beat from time to time and Dan playing different riffs throughout. It was absolutely perfect. Finally, keeping up the momentum, Wolf Parade closed their show with “Fancy Claps”. I realize that my vocabulary has been pretty limited this entire review, and I keep repeating myself, but I can’t put it any other way: They rocked it. Wolf Parade absolutely destroyed the House of Blues with their high energy, excellent set list, and stellar, precise sound.

Best show of the summer. Best show of my life.

Handlebar Moustache (Five out of five.) ‘Nuff said.


bo said...

Noooo. You saw wolf parade


Hannah said...

love. it.

douglas martin said...

what an incredible review! and the advice from the cabbie was probably the best thing i've read on a blog all year.

goathair said...

You're very lucky to see "Grounds for Divorce." When I saw them with Frog Eyes, Spencer said they wouldn't play it. Great band.

Emma said...

I saw the Montreal show in august and LOVED it. This band makes me feel desperate in the best possible way. Having left North America, now have to settle for youtube viewings - not quite the same. thanks for a super writeup.