Wolf Parade at the Englert Theatre
November 18, 2010, Iowa City, Iowa
As I was exiting the Englert Theatre after Wolf Parade’s performance on Thursday night, I noticed a familiar face.
It was co-worker who used to work close to my cubicle.
We gave each other a look of startled recognition, but it was my twenty-something corporate neighbor who stated the nature of his surprise.
“I didn’t know you were an indie rock fan.”
I mumbled something stupid, a distraction that you’re really there for other reasons aside from the fact that I enjoy the nostalgic kick I get from listening to Wolf Parade and like the strange sense of wordplay from some of their lyrics.
But I understood the question’s underlying dig: “You’re old. Why are you listening to a band that’s not targeted toward your demographic?”
There’s really no age limit when it comes to enjoyable, quirky rock, and Wolf Parade probably understand very well the reason why their music resonates nicely with older supporters.
It’s because we were around when most of the band’s primary influences were paving the way for Wolf Parade’s fascination with new wave spazz. We’ve heard some of these very tones a few decades ago, and some of the only purveyors of these futuristic sounds use them as historic building blocks.
Aside from that warm feeling of familiarity, I was more excited with the news that Wolf Parade was coming to town because Expo 86 should be on a few “best-of” lists this year and the record marks the emergence of Wolf Parade as an act that’s more of a band than a studio side-project.
When good material and good musicianship converge, you should be able to predict good things on stage. Based on Thursday night’s performance, Wolf Parade are clearly able to recreate every bit of the hyperactive twitch found on Expo 86.
They’re blessed with charming suburban anonymity, the kind of lads that leave you expecting to find a USB flash drive in their pockets instead of guitar picks. They fiddle with synthesizers, enjoy playing with the feedback of their instruments, and can occasionally muster up a good enough beat to get a few chicks to shake their ass.
The set pulled heavily from the latest, but not just because it needs the extra attention for sales. In fact, most in attendance seemed familiar with the new record, leaving the possibility that Expo 86 is providing Wolf Parade with some great opportunities at building memorable expansions of the tracks. The songs would wander off into complex, Metal Box patterns, occasionally allowing the pace to quicken before ending in amplifier grit and synthesizer fizzle.
Through it all, the members of Wolf Parade played an honest set, working hard at recreating the sounds of their material while reaffirming that their thin production values are not some strange attempt at weathering their sound, but instead are the limitations of their equipment.
Seriously: Someone needs to buy Dan Boeckner an amplifier that’s big enough to convert his guitar from a midrange heavy bark into a full-spectrum growl.
Nobody seemed to notice this much as every song was well received, with the songs from Apologies To The Queen Mary getting the most noticeable screams when the band began the intro to “You Are A Runner and I Am My Father’s Son.”
The politeness of the Iowa crowd seemed to unsettle the band on more than one occasion. After a bit of nice applause on one song, Spencer Krug noticed how respectful the crowd got while waiting for the next song to begin.
“It’s so quiet.” He admitted to the crowd, “Normally, we’re used to people yelling stupid shit at us when we’re up here.”
But the only stupid shit that would be uttered that night was the answer to my co-worker, which is why I’ll close with a mulligan reply.
Am I an indie-rock fan?
On that Thursday night, most definitely.
Video: Wolf Parade – “Yulia”
• Wolf Parade – “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way)”