GUITAR WOLF @ MARQUIS THEATER | 10/06/13 After Bass Wolf more or less stumbled into place and Drum Wolf sat down behind the kit, Guitar Wolf himself strode on stage and smashed down any unnecessary walls between punk, garage rock, noise rock, R&B, the blues, soul and rockabilly song after song. If the guys operated from a set list, it hardly mattered, as every song was played in all but immediate succession and each sounded decidedly different yet kindred just the same, amped up and borderline demented.
It was all but impossible to catch any of the words coming out of Guitar Wolf of Bass Wolf's mouth as both erupted with lyrics and words that sounded like it was coming directly from a primal place in the psyche, where the emotional impact matters more than the exact wording. Although you could make out tunes like "Jet Generation" or "UFO Romantics," what mattered more was that this band, more than almost anyone else playing rock and roll today, have tapped in to the true spirit of the art form by playing directly from the inspiration of an unfettered spirit.
This performance seemed almost superhuman in its intensity and drive from beginning to end. The guys may have went on longer than some people wanted, but the band didn't really seem to let up or flag. Guitar Wolf held his hand up often during the set as though he were winding up for some kind whirlwind of action, only to hold the dynamic tension in place to let loose with a cataclysm of rock that somehow also remained tuneful. It was the sound of mayhem, but without the violence. It was like these guys were just breaking free of unnecessarily social convention to express the raw spirit of rock and roll.
Guitar Wolf held his hand up often during the set as though he were winding up for some kind whirlwind of action, only to hold the dynamic tension in place to let loose with a cataclysm of rock that somehow also remained tuneful. It was the sound of mayhem, but without the violence. It was like these guys were just breaking free of unnecessarily social convention to express the raw spirit of rock and roll.
Toward the end of the set, the outfit went into an extended cover of Link Wray's "Rumble," and Guitar Wolf added some lyrics that consisted entirely of the phrase "rock and roll," sung/shouted in perfect cadence, and he made it seem like there could be no more fitting words for that most rock and roll of rock and roll songs.
Halfway through the final song in the set, Guitar Wolf pulled a guy up on stage and handed the guy his guitar with what seemed like instructions (either that or he laid some deep rock and roll secrets on him ). During this time, Guitar Wolf took the opportunity to do some crowd surfing, and he stood up about halfway back in the room and raised his arm in that salute he often did throughout the show, before making it fully back to the stage.
At one point, the guy tried to give the guitar back to Guitar Wolf, but he wasn't having it until close to the very end, and when he took the guitar back, Guitar Wolf got the crowd to cheer for the fill-in. What a very cool gesture. That would have been enough but Guitar Wolf was induced to come back for an encore of three songs just to kind of show the band wasn't being discouraged from high altitude exhaustion.
Earlier in the evening, the Coathangers played as a three piece, and even with a slimmed down lineup, the band didn't sound like it had been slowed down or hampered in any way. There was a flow and energy to the performance that just swept you up in its momentum with bursts of emotional vocals.
All three members of the band sang, and each had such a unique vocal style that they created, and there was no denying the emotional power and sonic resonance of their voices. Musically it was a bit reminiscent of the Slits, only insofar as that band had transcended standard punk early on and wasn't exactly following anyone's stylistic lead by the time of Cut.
The Coathangers' cover of the great early Gun Club song "Sex Beat" was gloriously emotive and brought out the intentional looseness of the song. Every few songs, the band switched up instruments a bit, and at the end, Julia Kugel put down her guitar and sang a song someone in the audience shouted out earlier in the show, "Leave My Shit Alone." Kugel's cathartic cries of the chorus served as a forceful mantra against any transgressors. Only one band could possibly have followed up The Coathangers' inspiring display this night, and it could only have been Guitar Wolf.
Personal Bias: Guitar Wolf is one of my favorite punk bands of all time. Same with The Coathangers. Random Detail: At one point, mid-song, the band's guitar tech and stage manager brought some baseball-sized rubber balls to stage side. Guitar Wolf held his SG like a kind of tennis racquet/baseball bat and batted the balls into the audience. It was so random and unexpected it seemed amazingly endearing. By the Way: Guitar Wolf has a new album called Beast Vibrator out. We can only hope a new Coathangers album is in the works for the immediate future.
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