Live Review: Wolf Gang with the Royal Concept and Atlas Genius at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 27th October 2012
The Wolf Gang show at U Street Music Hall ranks up there as one of the most difficult ones I’ve ever had to cover. Being a Wolf Gang fan, I was so chuffed to see Max McElligott and his band return to our town after having made a support appearance on Coldplay‘s North American tour over the summer. Evidently, I was the only person in attendance who hadn’t see either of those two performances at the Verizon Center. But as it turns out, I didn’t really need to be there, as I heard time and time again how all these fans, mostly under drinking age, had met Max and the band after they’d announced they’d be signing CDs and taking photos with fans in one of the upper level concourses and how there’d been a mad dash by girls getting over there. (For that reason alone, I’m kind of glad I wasn’t in that milieu.)
As I’ve explained in previous posts and just yesterday in this review of Saint Etienne just 2 days prior, U Street Music Hall is designed for dance bands and dance parties. However, since this was a show being put on by the 9:30 Club, my guess is that 9:30 Club security was working the floor that night. I will just say that if they were so worried about people storming the stage, they should have put up a barrier instead of yelling at people, and as it was, I was very uncomfortable and if it wasn’t for my love of Wolf Gang, I might have left early.
Since the show was sold out, it was good I arrived an hour before doors, situating myself stage right for the first opener, the Royal Concept. If they really started in April 2012 as their Facebook says, then that would explain why they sounded like a Swedish version of Two Door Cinema Club. The only differences are that Alex Trimble doesn’t wear leather, nor does he take off his clothes in public. MVRemix describes them as playing “infectious indie pop-rock, powered by catchy guitar riffs, synth-pop keyboards and contagious hooks”; I’m not the only one to which this sounds all too familiar.
‘World on Fire’ is their latest single, which frontman David Larson claimed applied to all the bands playing at the club that night. One particularly hilarious moment was when a very overexcited teenager begged to have Larson’s discarded wifebeater, and although I could not hear the exchange, I’m sure the response was, “you can’t, I only have one of these for the entire tour.” Another track, ‘Down’, left the underage crowd squealing.
Atlas Genius from Adelaide, Australia were up next. The DC was their first with the Wolf Gang tour, and I was pleased to see there were plenty of people (down the front at least) who had heard of them. In contrast to the Royal Concept, this is a band that was less about disrobing gimmickry; in fact, brothers Keith (vocals / guitar) and Steven Jeffrey were dressed in plaid, looking more like a grunge band than anything else.
‘Symptoms’, off their new EP ‘Through the Glass’, has a high-speed, driving rhythm reminscent of Phoenix and Miike Snow (though less dancey). Like Casiokids and Delphic before them, Atlas Genius’ track ‘If So’ has made it on to a FIFA game, a fact that Keith Jeffrey made proudly. (Not sure how many underage girls were impressed, but still, it’s an achievement.) One thing I was taken aback about was the fact that neither brother had a ‘usual’ rack of guitar pedals but instead had a fancy-schmancy sequencer-like set-up where different songs could be called up quickly with no fuss. Is this the way indie rock is heading? As a result, the music felt less organic, or at least, maybe it was just to me, having seen their equipment.
Max McElligott had a little something for everyone during Wolf Gang’s set. ‘Midnight Dancers’ was dedicated to the couples in the audience, some of which were pointed out by McElligott and commended, even though they were few and far between. He asked everyone to dance during ‘The King and All of His Men’, which was made all the more difficult by security yelling at us not to get too close to the stage. (Where do you want us to go? You want us to dance backward and into the already too packed dance floor?) He offered up new tracks ‘Horizons’ and ‘You Were Wrong’, as if asking us if it were okay for him to play new songs. Hell yes: I thought they sounded great and were in similar line to those on ‘Suego Faults’, which feels like a lifetime ago I reviewed for a UK release date in 2011.
But of course it was the released songs that made the most impact: the speedy delivery of ‘Where Are You Now?’, the slinkiness of ‘Back to Back’ and the bouncing rhythm of ‘Stay and Defend’ all went down extremely well to a crowd of fans who had already fallen in love with Wolf Gang 4 months ago. McElligott barely stayed in one place; he preferred dancing between the two sides of the stage, as if proving that he was there to perform to everyone there in the club, not just the one side where his mike stand happened to be sat.
‘Dancing with the Devil’ led to a mass scale pogo-ing, the likes I don’t see very often in DC. While there was no encore, ‘Lions in Cages’ was smartly saved for last, with its soaring “oh-oh-ohhhhs” filling the underground hall with an almost ethereal resonance. Afterwards, he didn’t stop signing CDs and t-shirts and took pictures with fans, all of whom were thrilled that this man from London had made their night, or possibly their year. This sold out gig proved that whenever Wolf Gang returns to our fair city with a new album, he’ll be welcomed back with open arms.
After the cut: Wolf Gang’s set list.
Wolf Gang Set List:
Into the Fire (new song)
Stay and Defend
Where Are You Now?
Back to Back
Dancing with the Devil
You Were Wrong (new song)
The King and All of His Men
Lions in Cages