Show Review

Wolf Alice @ The Grog Shop 12/17/15

Lisa Sanchez

​When I walked into the Grog Shop on Thursday December 17, I didn't expect that many people to be there. Star Wars: The Force Awakens had just premiered and I figured the venue would be a ghost town. However, to my pleasant surprise, there isn't a lot of crossover fandom between Star Wars and people who enjoy North London alt bands.

Wolf Alice is an occasionally spacey alternative rock band that started as duet then blossomed into a solid quartet during their years in the England rock scene. To me, Wolf Alice is a eclectic cross between Best Coast, The Runaways, and Waxahatchee with a splash of 90's rock ethos I can't quite put my finger on. I was excited to see the band at the Grog Shop because I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

The band recently released their first full length album, My Love is Cool, in June of this year and has thus far received high praise from publications such as NME and The Guardian. My Love is Cool incorporates a number of different elements throughout the album, from the dreamy, but riff-driven "Your Loves Whore," to the up-beat grunge tinged "Moaning Lisa Smile," and stripped down "Swallowtail" My Love is Cool takes Wolf Alice's sound to a lot of different places, but makes one cohesive album. I was eager to see if the band could live up to their album's presentation.

 The show kicked off with Radkey, a trio of brothers who embody an old school punk feel with a more polished and precise instrumental delivery. Lead singer and guitarist Dee Radke's vocals immediately drew me in. The singer sounds as if Joey Ramone and Glen Danzig had a baby then sent him to band camp. Radkey's live show was energetic, on point, and just damn entertaining. An excellent way to start to the evening.

When Wolf Alice took the stage, I expected an initial crowd push to the front (which occurs at virtually every show I've ever gone to), but there was no surge. After the band played their first few songs, "Your Lovers Whore" and "Freazy" I figured out why. Wolf Alice was simply incredibly chill on stage. Vocalist/guitarist Ellie Rowsell kept stage banter to a minimum, but mentioned this was the band's last show of the year and their first headliner in Cleveland so she encouraged the crowd to "Make it a good one."
​Rowsell had a dual microphone stand with one normal mic and another that looked like it was supposed to be used for old time radio to create the echoing, dream-like sound the band has cultivated so well. Guitarist Joff Oddie and bassist Theo Ellis had similar accoutrements with multiple peddles for them to accomplish Wolf Alice's atmospheric effects and transitions.

It was great to watch Wolf Alice perform their fun poppy songs like "Giant Peach" where Rowsell and Oddie did a ZZ Top style shuffle, plus the band's remix of their classic "Bros," "Fluffy," and the killer vocal punch of "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, do we go to Heaven?" in "You're a Germ." Wolf Alice loves to insert these little stop/starts in their songs that catch the listener off guard and they execute them perfectly live. 

The best part about seeing Wolf Alice is being able to pick up on the particular instrumental or vocal pieces that are sometimes lost in the din of an album's mix. It was only live that I realized some of the wiggy and weird guitar sounds, the solid bass lines, and multifaceted compositions that make up Wolf Alice. Although the band put on a great show, I found myself waning during the band's slower songs like "Swallowtail" and "Silk." They're good songs, and were performed well, but they're not the most interesting things the band is capable of. Wolf Alice lost me on occasion, but they always made up for it with the next song.

The band left the stage briefly only to return and play their encore "Blush" and, possibly the band's most well known song off of My Love is Cool, "Moaning Lisa Smile." I was again anticipating a "final song rush," but none came. Everyone at the Grog Shop just hung out, enjoyed the music, and bobbed their heads. After the song, the band, in true cavalier fashion, dropped their instruments on the stage and Rowsell may have accidentally on purpose knocked over her microphone stand. Either way, I found it at least clumsily endearing.

Wolf Alice made a big noise for the Grog Shop's modest stage and I think they can only refine their sound more and become more interesting. The band only gets a short break from touring after their Cleveland show and will be headed to Japan and Europe in winter 2016, but will return to the states in April of next year.
​Ellie Rowsell and Joel Amey (Sanchez 2015)