Wolf Parade, Webster Hall, 4/10/06
Next time I go to venue like Webster Hall I'm going to have try showing early and getting a seat in the balcony. We snagged the last passable standing real estate a half hour before the headliner's hit time, so we missed Holy Fuck entirely and caught the last few songs of French Kicks, who were relatively unobjectionable. The show was sold out long ago, so of course we're immobilized in a dense underbrush of nervous twenty-one-year-old white kids. Normally this would be endurable when the music is good, except for cases where someone in front of you smells like a poorly maintained kennel, as was unfortunately the case on Monday.
The band came out maybe five minutes behind schedule and Spencer Krug, singer and keyboard player, immediately apologized for being late. This pattern continued for the entire set -- they barely said anything between songs, but when they did, it was to apologize for something, that they "suck at this" for instance. No one in the group made eye contact with the audience for the entire show, favoring a space on the floor just in front of them, and the guitar player and bass player played with their backs to the audience for the first two songs. The general stage presence was shyness mixed with mild self-effacement. The vibe of the band actually got more introverted as the evening went on, but with an increasing intensity, as though there was only one direction for the drama of the performance to go, which was toward the inside of the band's overall sound, not outward toward the audience from the individual members. It worked.
Wolf Parade's strategy is to layer up thick, balanced textures and use a lot of lead synth melody. Hadji Bakara played a reverb-&-delay-drenched theremin that expanded the timboral landscape of the songs with some Mariana trench-like moments, providing a needed element of gentle menace without departing from the catchiness or late post-adolescent dramatic intensity. In the beginning of the set it felt like they were holding back a little, but it got better as it went along, with some very broad and quite pleasurable peak-outs toward to end and in the encore. There's so little energetic or tempo variation or density contrast in the song structures that it almost doesn’t read as pop music, it's almost a drone music, though the keyboard melodies are pushing Cars-level catchiness in many tunes. Krug and Dan Boeckner sing equally well, and both use a similar kind of stylized warbly cracking intensity that seems like someone politely controlling emotions that are bigger than they are. The pop music of not being able to help how you feel.