25th January | Louisiana
Photos: Rowan Allen
A fair amount of time has past since Wand whisked into Bristol for a show. They released a new album, the wonderful Plum, which took the group’s penchant for delirious psych whig-outs and weaved them into a more subtle, considered songwriting style. It was a highlight of last year for a band that, while supported, have largely gone under the radar, in particular when considered amongst contemporaries such as Ty Segall and Oh Sees. What Plum did was prove, that in front man Cory Hanson, they had a chameleonic leader who could not only hold his own with the best of them, but at times blow them out of the water. There’s no real surprise they are deemed one of the most exciting psych-rock acts to come out of the LA scene. So while there was a particular excitement surrounding this absolutely packed show at The Louisiana, and on quite a few elements it thrived in such an atmosphere, a nagging feeling of meandering seeped through a set that jarred within the heat of such a condensed space.
Openers East Sister, from Switzerland, are a really interesting proposition. Conceiving atmospheric and engaging dream-pop songs that sound wonderful within a live aspect, the trio coat layers of, at times, quite intricate playing into a focused and emotive mixture. While they play with a technical proficiency, their sound thrives for being surprisingly minimal, shedding any sense of lethargy for a focused sound. It’s an excellent warm-up to the power of Wand, and a wonderful introduction to an intriguing new group.
Wand don’t waste any time setting up and getting into their groove, arriving just after 9 and not leaving much before 11. It’s an expansive and indulgent set that the crowd dig deep into early on, shaking with a verve that matches Hanson’s early splurges with his guitar, standing tall and assured. The set explores much of their catalogue, yet it’s Plum that acts as the centre, and perhaps where their live performance comes into question. While they are a fantastic group, capable of sheer unadulterated riffs that really groove and shake in equal measure, the more mellow elements of Plum seem to lose their precision and delicacy that they contain on record. ‘Bee Karma’ heralds much of the early going, its liberatingly loose riff is utterly encompassing, yet its quieter moments are channelled through a sense of shrug through the group. The rhythm line of Robert Cody on guitar and Lee Landey seemingly unenthused with the goings on in comparison to Hanson, keyboardist Sofia Arreguin and the absolutely on-point drumming of Evan Burrows.
As the set proceeds through its second hour, the heat really begins to swell within the confines of The Louisiana, and while it would be ok if the crowd were in a sweaty mass of movement, the little-to-no motion that seems to gradually settle amongst the front row makes for a more stagnant viewing. Nevertheless, Wand themselves display a playing ability that is at times utterly encompassing, the melodic qualities pleasingly shining through on ‘Blue Cloud’ as the group traverse its consistently varying composites.
While a fantastic group, a slight poignancy does hang over the performance, and while the crowd leave largely satisfied, it’s important to consider how the group may approach being able to properly wring the more effervescent features out of their best album to date in the future.