Few frontmen in music totally absorb themselves in their art as wholly as Wolf & Cub’s Joel Byrne. Where others may be more focused on performing a highly energetic show or engaging the audience through entertaining antics and witty stage banter, Byrne seems to submerge himself entirely within the creation and live recreation of his music, and thus, draws fans in with him.
Playing another edition in what seems like an endless series of free nights at St Kilda’s The Espy (not that we’re complaining about seeing great bands for free), Wolf & Cub have built a loyal Melbourne fanbase that has followed them to each and every one of these nights.
The Adelaide quartet has released two outstanding albums that transport listeners to a world of quirky, danceable psychedelic rock. Luckily for us, they have recently been recording track for their upcoming third album.
Opening with new song, “Nothin Comin”, this is the first opportunity that Melbourne fans have had to hear the new material. The track takes full advantage of bassist, Wade Keighran’s delicate vocal harmonies and exhibits a generally slower and smoother tone than much of the band’s previous work. With a slick bassline and chilling melody, there’s an abundance of evidence to suggest that the new album is going to be spectacular.
The stuttering opening riff of “One To the Other” immediately awakens the tired (and mostly drunk) crowd and gets the whole front bar shaking the ground with their tapping toes. A stripped back version of popular single “This Mess” leaves fans drooling, with a more languid interpretation of the main riff and a slower tempo. Usually, this track results in an eruption of crowd chaos at front of the stage, but tonight, we’re mostly inspired to sway in unison to the refreshing rendition of a much loved classic.
“Whatever you knew about Brock Fitzgerald before, forget about it. He’s with us now,” declares Byrne to the crowd, introducing the new keyboardist/guitarist/drummer, a former member of The Scare (like Keighran). Although having two drummers had always been an exciting quirk of the band, it was questionable how necessary it was to their sound. With the addition of Fitzgerald, it’s immediately apparent that what they really needed was a second guitarist (even though Fitzgerald still plays drums on some tracks). The backing guitar significantly improves the depth of the band’s live sound, complementing Byrne’s intricate riffs and solos with layers of wailing reverb and thumping rhythms.
The set consists mostly of tracks from their second album, 2009’s Science and Sorcery, such as “Master”, “Restless Sons”, “The Loosest of Gooses (Go On Your Own)” and “Blood”. While the new songs may not have appealed to The Espy’s usual 1am crowd, they leave fans itching with anticipation for the new album.
Despite always complaining about the stage lights being too hot and consistently being thrown into playing sets at absurd hours, it’s clear that the band appreciates their loyal Melbourne following. They even take a moment to point out and thank specific members of the audience for their continued support. How often does that happen?