Wolf Alice – YORK Barbican – 17.03.16
I first heard Wolf Alice on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show, as one of her Hottest Records (sorry Zane) of the week. The music world has been going on about the revival of guitar music for a while now, and Wolf Alice have taken this movement and run with it, or should I say, played in it. Their sound is electric, in both senses of the word, grungy and exciting. Their first and only album, My Love Is Cool, was released after 4 years of solid grafting on tour.
On Thursday evening, I headed down to York’s biggest venue, The Barbican, to see Wolf Alice perform. After getting a few drinks in The Seahorse (don’t judge, it’s the closest pub), we arrived just in time to catch some of Wolf Alice’s support, Swim Deep. I thought it strange that such a well established band such as Swim Deep were a support act, but after seeing them play I can kind of see why. They appeared onstage in 60’s psychedelia regalia: long hair and flares everywhere. The songs bobbed along pleasantly, like their dance moves, but lacked the punch of the band which was to come. It was an enjoyable performance, but not memorable enough to warrant seeing them at their own show. But onto bigger, better, and certainly more aggressive things.
The band came out unassumingly, which left me assuming the gig would be like many gigs I had been to before in York: just a small, unexciting stop on a band’s larger tour of the UK. But as Wolf Alice kicked off with ‘Your Love’s Whore’, it really showed that the band were not saving energy for Leeds or Manchester, but giving all their power and grit to us Yorkers. Similarly, radio hits ‘You’re a Germ’ and ‘Bros’ were delivered with a wall of sound which nearly knocked you flat. Wolf Alice did manage to control this seemingly uncontrollable barrage of sound though, much to their credit. Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell’s vocals were faultless and she spat out lyrics with the venom of a true grunge act. On quieter moments, like ‘90 Mile Beach’, the band showed their prowess to create emotion in an audience which up till this point, had been thrashing around carefree.
The audience I feel, is something that needs to be talked about. One of the most distinctive things about gigs in York is the mixture of people they attract. While the younger half of the audience were pulled towards the stage like kids to candy, the balcony was filled with a more sedentary lot, viewing the stage like parents at a public swimming pool. I guess you could say this is the dynamic for most of the gigs which pull in punters of all ages, but for me it seems more of a York thing. It’s not bad, just a bit of a bizarre reception for bands like Wolf Alice.
As it drew towards the 11pm curfew (remember no drinking inside the city walls either!), Wolf Alice came back on for an encore of ‘Turn to Dust’, ‘Blush’ and ‘Giant Peach’. The band played with an energy discounting the hour they had just played for, and ‘Giant Peach’ especially topped off what was a really great night.
Wolf Alice really are a band to be excited about and I can only hope that by the time they have released their next album, they will still remember to visit good old York.
Words and photo by Sophie Church