Alice? Who the Wolf is Alice?

IMG_3111Often my gig-going is centred around the very familiar, it made a nice change tonight to go to a gig almost entirely blind.  I’d booked a ticket to see Wolf Alice at Rock City back in October at my brother’s suggestion – and entirely forgotten about it until I glanced at my calendar on Tuesday evening after work.  A text to my brother enquired as to whether he’d got the tickets, he replied saying he didn’t think I was coming – a search of my emails revealed an e-ticket.  Two e-tickets in fact.  Oops!

With Ella down south Rich was able to get my ticket re-homed with Simon, a friend of Ed’s who was also coming to the gig.  Perhaps just as excitingly, we decided to pop to Annie’s Burger Shack before the gig – I opted for the current special on offer, the Cannonball – it was delicious.  I love Annie’s.  Annie came to the UK pursuing music, but found fame for her imaginative music-themed burgers, initially served in The Old Angel, then The Navigation Inn and finally in her own extremely popular restaurant – a real characterful success story.

IMG_3110After eating we waddled up to Rock City deciding to find a spot on the sidelines rather than in the mosh pit – it was pretty much a sell-out, quite a feat on a Wednesday night.  We found a good spot on the elevated area to the left of the stage and decided not to move from there for the evening – it seemed a bit strange to be on the sidelines at a gig but I wasn’t keen on the idea of being smashed around the very lively (even for the support acts) mosh pit whilst quite so full of burger!

IMG_3115The first act was already underway as we arrived.  Bloody Knees are an energetic grungish act – there was a healthy crowd in considering the early start (they were done and dusted by 8pm).  I think they hail from Cambridgeshire – and I enjoyed watching them thrashing away on the stage, big hair, snarling vocals, big noise – and catchy songs to boot.  The crowd bounced, fist-pumping and singing along too – a brave choice for a support act, if you think about it!  I’d certainly be happy to watch them again, and the mosh pit did look fun!

As the second act were readying to enter the fray the link to pre-order Ferocious Dog‘s third album went live – I managed to get in on that, it’s being recorded in January 2017 for release by the end of April 2017.  Lessons learned from From Without – a set date, and assurances of deadlines being met.  I’m guessing that in addition to their not inconsiderable touring and festival schedule that songwriting must be very much on their agenda now for the next few months!  If you’d like to get on board you can pre-order here.

IMG_3124Back in Rock City the second act took the stage – Swim Deep are from Birmingham and somewhat defy definition as far as my meagre skills allow.  They began with melodic indieish sound which was initially interspersed with thrash metal interludes and an incredibly energetic performance from all of the musicians – particularly the singer who started out with a tambourine and progressed to a guitar that was pedalled up to high fuckery.  Again, the crowd were clearly properly into them – they went crazy the second song in.

The vocals were mellow – they reminded me of an odd hybrid of the singer from The Beloved crossed with The Pet Shop Boys with a hint of Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins.  The backing music defies genre – there was a great deal going on – layers of stuff made up an all out sonic assault.  It’s possible our side-stage placement might’ve denied us the full vista of noise from the two guitars, bass, two keyboards and drums (not all played at once I might add!).  A central placement might be advisable for these chaps!

I enjoyed them as I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it – the end of the set saw both guitars abandoned for keyboards at either side of the stage with just the bass and drums accompanying.  It was a pretty epic finish to be fair – another band I’d be happy to watch again given the opportunity, a veritable melting pot of influences giving an intricate wall of sound that remained accessible and melodic for the most part.  I’d definitely choose a more central spot to listen next time as I think sonic trickery was at play that might’ve been diminished from our eyrie.

Wolf Alice took to the moodily backlit stage to a chugging industrial sounding backing track to rapturous applause from the gathered crowd.  Upon getting their instruments they clustered around the drum kit to get the timing right for their opening track – an instrumental assault.  They had a powerful grunge-like sound with funky undertones softened by keyboards and the soft-at-times vocals from Ellie Rowsell.  I wanted to steer clear of defining them by having a female singer, but well, they do.

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Her enigmatic understated stage-presence is countered by very demonstrative performers in Joff on guitar and Theo on bass, providing backing vocals and regular wanderings down into the press-pit to interact with the crowd.  I couldn’t see Joel on drums from my seat!  As the set wore on it was clear there was more to their sound than straight down the line rock – there were folkish hints, almost prog-rock cues – we dubbed it ‘prog-grunge’ on the night, it’s as good a definition as any!

IMG_3134The crowd were well into the set – lots of moshing, lots of singing along, a fair amount of shoulder rides – the vocals are at times dispassionate and soft (I don’t mean that in a bad way) but then turn on a sixpence to banshee screaming where the music hammers to accompany perfectly.  I was trying to draw comparisons, elements reminded me of Erica Nockalls‘ solo material, bits of Garbage, with the vocals straying into Blondie or Stevie Nicks territory at times.

After an hour the main set was over – the band exited the stage without a word, leaving a guitar feeding back and a technician to hit the pedal to silence it – they returned after a fair bit of chanting from the crowd to perform an encore of another three songs – the first two were mellow, showing another softer crafted side to the band – the last one had an almost ZZ Top sounding riff and really finished the gig off on a high energy footing that had been the recurring theme throughout – to finish Ellie leap into the press-pit to high-five with the crowd before departing.

A splendid and unexpected evening – always a bonus.  I’m normally pretty organised with my ticket buying and gig planning so it was all a bit discombobulating and strangely liberating, and I do like the opportunity to go and see something where I have no preconceptions or preparation – luckily for me tonight that wasn’t to prove disappointing.  Definitely acts I’ll be pleased to see again at some point – at least by then I might’ve had the chance to learn some of their song titles!  And get better photos.

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