Wye Oak - Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen, London
There's been some sort of seismic shift since Wye Oak were last in London. That was back in February, and in one of those missed moments, the new album Civilian wasn't quite out at the time. Since then, they have headline toured in the States. The record came out, received much critical acclaim and has had chance to embed into people's psyches. They've been on BBC6 Music twice - specialising in tight travelling squeezes, they did their Beeb sessions on the way to the airport last time round, and on their way in from Gatwick this time. All of this amounts to quite a buzz for a band who by their own admission are comfortable with things on a small scale. Tonight's venue was Hoxton Bar And Grill - hardly the biggest in town, the crucial factor being that it was sold out weeks in advance and jammed on the night.
Support was from WATERS - themselves newly signed to City Slang, making them stablemates with Wye Oak. Fronted by former Port O'Brien mainstay Van Pierszalowski they took every opportunity to turn up the 'raw' quotient, the front row of the crowd having to jerk their heads out of way of the sort of frenzied jumping and guitar jabbing more expected from Angus Young. Their album is apparently in the can, but so far there is only one track knocking around anywhere. I'll be back...
And on to the main act. I've got to admit to a love affair with Wye Oak for the past two or three years, but tonight I was not alone; it was noticeable just how many of the crowd were muttering along word perfect. For those that don't know the band, they are a couple - Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack - from Baltimore. I've got over the novelty of seeing Andy on stage, playing keys with his left hand and drumming with every other part of his body. The sound is typified by interspersed loud / quiet, crashing and reverb laden. Jenn plays string-breaking guitar and has a voice that graces the songs with a real sense of whispered in the ear intimacy, even amongst the noise squall.
It being the last night of a European tour before heading home for a few weeks break, it was an end of term party - several rounds of shots consumed on stage, and enough of a celebration to abandon the set list at the end in favour of a shouted request for 'My Neighbour' which they followed with their cover of The Kinks' 'Strangers'. My particular song of the night was 'That I Do', a touching tale of co-dependency, the minor chords of which raise the hairs on my neck and a lump in my throat every time.
Being 'those' sort of people, they eschewed the usual play acting of coming back for an encore, instead playing straight up to the curfew and then immediately going off stage to chat with the crowd, where Andy told me of plans for their 'down' time, which will consist of simply playing more music, possibly some collaboration. Meanwhile Jenn indulged her taste for Laphroaig. They were due to be on the plane the next morning, their sightseeing consisting of the gig and an airport hotel. Such glamour.
Setlist - Plains / Holy Holy / The Alter / Hot As Day / My Creator / Dogs Eyes / Civilian / Fish / That I Do / Take It In / We Were Wealth / I Hope You Die / My Neighbour / Strangers / For Prayer / Doubt
Photos by Martyn Leung