As Festival No 6 in Wales this summer descended into a major mudbath after two days of biblical rainfall, Wolf People took to the stage late afternoon (above). They were captivating and the turmoil of guitars suited the inclement weather, but I decided I’d enjoy them more sometime in the future, in the warmth, with dry clothes.
And so it came to pass that Wolf People appeared at Oslo in Hackney. First up is their support, Dean McPhee. His opening number was inspired by the bells at a neighbouring church in West Yorkshire (both acts derive inspiration from their surroundings and its history) – at times I was reminded of The Orb in their early days and the thrill of A Huge Ever Pulsating Brain. McPhee creates multiple layers of sound, feedback developing a full and mesmerising sound – he’s a lovely bloke too and the broken lead after the first number meant he could chat to us awhile.
Wolf People, who released new album Ruins on 11th November, started with Ninth Night, the album’s opener, its quietly innocuous guitar melody giving way to blistering guitars and plenty of fuzz, with Tom Watt’s tribal drumbeat calling us back in time. The song is about ne’er do wells in the 1700s who would lull their victims into sleep in order to rob them – and the track communicates this well with its doomy vibe. Second number is Rhine Sagas, with its Zeppelinesque guitar wail. From where I was standing (at the front, not great for sound but I wanted to see the band, it’s always a sacrifice, see or hear, take your choice) the vocals were very low in the mix and I could barely hear vocalist Jack Sharp at all, let alone make out the lyrics.
When the Fire is Dead in the Grate takes us back to 2013s Fain and a gentler, more folk-based era, less distortion. All Returns and All Returns Part II marked a high point of the evening – the expansiveness of the composition giving the band full rein to explore and let us get lost in the song’s magic, it’s also a playful track with that echoing riff creating a delicious tension. Later came another number from Ruins – Night Witch, with its powerful, wailing guitars. For one of the encore numbers, McPhee joined them on stage.
Wolf People take me back to a beloved era, 70s psych folk and blues influenced rock, before punk pushed its snout into the trough of the music scene. Undeniably, Traffic, Jethro Tull, a bit of Family (final gigs in December, folks) are strong influences, but Wolf People have forged their own path – Ruins certainly sees the band evolving.
I left Oslo elated, this was one of the best gigs of the year (The Besnard Lakes, also on the Jagjaguwar label, are also on the list). Jack Sharp informed us that he was delighted to be playing in London and said ‘the band would be back soon’. A big cheers to that.
Wolf People: Jack Sharp (guitar, vocals), Joe Hollick (guitar), Dan Davies (bass) and Tom Watt (drums).