Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rockin' Out: Wolfmother/The Heartless Bastards @ Music Hall of Williamsburg 11/09/09

Not great pictures, but not the usual blurred mess that my Blackberry camera normally produces. Three cheers for progress!

Wolfmother and Heartless Bastards rolled into the hipster capital of the East Coast on Monday night to play The Music Hall of Williamsburg. I'd never seen Wolfmother live before, but was curious to see them since I am a big fan of their self-titled debut album (and this year's release Cosmic Egg is pretty good too) and having seen The Heartless Bastards twice already this year, I knew they could be counted on for a good show. Originally, this tour was only going to play the dreadful Terminal 5 in Manhattan, but much to my delight they added a second date at at the smaller and far superior (sound wise) Music Hall. The trek to Brooklyn to laugh at a few hipsters and take in a good show was a no brainer.

The Heartless Bastards first came to my attention after I saw them them open for The Black Keys back in February and subsequently picked up this year's The Mountain. I don't love all alt-country, but there are certainly a few bands that are masters of that genre and I now count the Heartless Bastards as part of that crowd. Singer/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom has one of those beautiful whiskey soaked throaty voices (she was actually drinking a Jack and ginger out of a coffee cup on stage...or so she claimed after an audience member admonished her for drinking coffee) that is probably the envy of many of her male counterparts. The band is tight and the songs are rockin' affairs informed by a country influence. They worked through a few technical difficulties like pros and didn't allow lulls in the action. If you are a fan of Lucero, The Black Keys, Drive-By Truckers, etc., then this is the band for you without a doubt.

When we were entering the venue, an extremely intoxicated college aged looking guy was getting denied entrance at the door. I didn't catch all of what was going on, but he was protesting about his ticket while the bouncer explained to him he was being turned away because he was too drunk. Bummer bro. That did make me realize that I had never really considered what a Wolfmother audience was going to look like. As it turned out, it looked a lot like the drunk college kid I saw outside, but mixed in with a few older rock dude types and was probably a 60/40 split between men and women. When Wolfmother came out and started playing the crowd was extremely fired up (as is usually expected when the headliner hits the stage), but what I didn't see coming was a mosh pit during the hit from their first album "Woman". Maybe this is me being a music snob or being older and a bit jaded or both, but the whole scene just struck me as so Woodstock '99....you know, a bunch of idiots moshing to music just for the sake of being aggressive. More than once, one of said idiots got on the stage and almost disturbed the ebb and flow of the set by flailing around a little too close to the band, but were promptly thrown off stage by security. That kind of stuff is just fine at a punk rock or hardcore show, but this was a rock n roll performance....audience participation is meant to be kept in the actual audience. One dufus actually knocked the mic off the stand and spent what felt like an eternity, but was more like 30 seconds, drunkenly fumbling with it to get it back on. Hey, at least he had some manners. That being said, even a bunch of drunk dipshits couldn't ruin what was a surprisingly spectacular set by Wolfmother.

Wolfmother only has singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale remaining from the line-up that recorded their self-titled debut and as evidenced by the latest album Cosmic Egg and last night's performance, Wolfmother is really his vehicle. Original founding members, bassist/keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett quit the band over the ever popular "irreconcilable personal and musical differences" and have been replaced my more than competent players as well as a second guitarist. I did notice during the set that Stockdale gave more than a few disapproving glances at his new keyboardist/bassist when their were slight imperfections in the playing/sound, so maybe the guy is a bit of a tyrant and hard to get along with, but who knows. Anyway, the simplest (and probably most accurate) way to describe Wolfmother is that they are a throwback to the more jammy 70's hard rock ala Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, Mountain, etc., but without being so derivative that it gets boring or screams "retro" too loudly. They came out, turned it up to 11 and rocked it out. There were no bathroom break songs (which was unfortunate because Stella can go right through you) and Stockdale showed that the new (and improved?) Wolfmother is a force to be reckoned with.

Heartless Bastards "Out To Sea"

Heartless Bastards "The Mountain"

Wolfmother "Mind's Eye"

Wolfmother "Joker And The Thief"

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