Live Review: Wolf People

Steve Buttercase 21 May 2013

The Portland Arms Sunday 19th May 2013

Attempting to revive the bloated corpse of a much-mocked musical genre is not a task I imagine appealing to many bands in the 21st Century so it was with some trepidation that I arrived at The Portland Arms on Sunday night to listen to ‘Wolf People’ -whose new album “Fain” was released on 30th April and who had been described to me as “revivalist Prog”.

Now to avoid misunderstanding, I have nothing against Prog Rock as a genre. It is marked out by its commitment to musical excellence and expression over commercialism and transience and it is an extremely honest art form despite battling the inevitable stereotype of the folky long haired devotee straight from the Graphic Novel shop smelling of patchouli.

This was Proggy indeed, but not just that. It had its roots in the blues and there was a dirty, earthy at times almost primal feel to the trance-like arcane grooves summoned up by this astonishing four-piece. I heard many bands in there – Traffic, The Groundhogs, King Crimson- and there was more than a cursory nod to Led Zeppelin and even Fairport Convention.

“Empty Vessels” from new album “Fain” was even more dramatic and engaging live than on record. Guitarist Joe Hollick’s Gibson Firebird was crunchy and robust throughout without ever slipping into a terminal Steve Howe widdle-fest and the rest of the band meandered through key, tempo and time signatures like an improvised musical Kerouac.

“When The Fire Is Dead In The Grate” was almost an homage to early Black Sabbath’s magical riffery, minus Ozzy of course, and again never cheats on the exuberant or the dramatic.

Other highlights from first album Steeple were included and the older material was particularly popular with this crowd. On a regular basis the entire front row turned into that scene from Wayne’s World with heads nodding in unison to some familiar dirty mid-tempo groove.

OK, so the band did look a little like they had arrived from a Star Trek convention, as did the amazingly young audience in part, but these chic geeks concocted a visceral raw cacophony that was pure sex and funk every bit as invasive and transformative as sixties James Brown. This is because they love this music, they believe in themselves and they mean it.

How many bands can we truly say that about in 2013?

Steve Buttercase