It was a sweltering night of 30+ degree heat in London and LA psych-rockers brought in a near capacity crowd to Studio 9294. Wand are on tour promoting their fifth studio album Laughing Matter.
NOV3L from Vancouver opened the night, five earnest men whose music was every bit as angular as their faces. They eschewed talking to the audience with mood-scape intervals occupying the space between songs. Each song was a spiky eruption: outbursts of anthemic-polemic half-shouted, half-sung vocals over controlled assaults of dual guitars that had the effect of glass skittering over sandpaper and all this held aloft by taut ultra-bass lines sounding like a giant trampolining. They monopolised bass and treble frequencies with occasional saxophone laments providing islands of mid-range. But I get the impression that the seriousness of their sonic assault means NOV3L are comfortable making the audience uncomfortable. It felt, to me, Like Gang of Four and Josef K trying to knock the nice out of Haircut 100 and they will surely have come away tonight with a few hundred more fans.
Second on are Gang and it’s a great name for the collective feeling that they give off. They have a modern take on Prog crossed with the energy of Royal Blood and are in turns playful, with warping harmonies and glistening guitar patterns, and then, with one stomp of a foot pedal, alerting earthworms within a mile radius via huge thunder-chords from guitar and bass. They are a blissful dream scrapping with a Bacchanalian nightmare and it is huge fun watching them have huge fun on stage.
The audience forces themselves to leave the cool of the outside space and return to a venue awash with dry ice as Wand take to the stage to an overture of low-key swirling guitar effects which build to a crescendo and we’re off on a helter-skelter journey of song, wig-out, song, wig-out etc. It’s an assured performance that demonstrates why they are the rightfully tonight’s headlining act and they draw heavily from the new album by including tracks like ‘Xoxo’, ‘Walkie Talkie’, ‘Thin Air’, ‘Rio Grande’, ‘Airplane’ and ‘Scarecrow’.
Wand can be urgently laid back or put the psychotic into psychedelic and I felt the fragility of Thom Yorke or Grizzly Bear in close confinement with the white-hot-tension of The Oh Sees or Ty Segall and maybe it’s the heat, or the result of a long tour, but there seemed to be an element of therapy in the way Cory Hanson attacked his guitar (sometimes with a violin bow) and wrenched chords and glissando runs out of the wood and metal. And when you think his plaintive voice threatens to disappear into LA’s musical smog it always manages to push through and surprise you with how strong something so delicate can be. It’s also a huge credit to the confidence and musical unity of the band that at no point do you fear the train will derail. They are all working in harmony both musically and spiritually and listening to Wand live unlocked another level to the tracks I had heard on Laughing Matter and Plum. It was as though they drew power from the ether, creating a shimmering halo around tracks that were already epic, and they emerged from the dry ice exhausted and victorious in front of this extremely happy and sated London crowd.
Review and photography by Paul F Cook