Photo NOT from last night
Wolf Parade @ Crystal Ballroom, July 15, 2008
Oh to be 16 on summer vacation. Jesus, if you are, last night Wolf Parade blew your fucking mind. Which isn't to say the Canadian's ripping set was particularly juvenile, just that all those kids in the pulsing dance pit up front won't be forgetting it anytime soon. And somewhere this afternoon, in a basement in southeast Portland, somebody is starting a band.
To a near sold-out Crystal Ballroom (there could've been maybe five tickets left at the box office?) Wolf Parade blew on stage with "I Am A Runner" before tearing through at least half of their recently released At Mt. Zoomer. They were propulsive and work-like through the first two thirds of the set, charging constantly, speeding through song after song with little banter.
Co-songwriter Dan Boeckner occasionally opened his mouth between songs, letting the crowd know he "wouldn't be going all G.G. Allin" since his wife's parents were in the audience. Smart money says about seven in the building got the reference. Then again, although Boeckner is the group's most livid performer, it's hard to imagine him doing anything truly frightening or provocative.
Boeckner's straightforward pop tunes balanced out well with Wolf Parade's other head, Spencer Krug, whose existential 3/4 musings sometimes jump off into straight weird. That said, Krug is by far the more original and compelling writer (though I would assert he's been saving his best material for Sunset Rubdown, his solo project).
On the group's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, Krug contributed a number of more upbeat tunes, whereas his most recent efforts are more subdued. Live, however, these song were given some extra lift. The incredibly strange, meandering album version of "California Dreaming" became worthwhile onstage with a new driving heft.
The band ended the set with Zoomer closer "Kissing the Beehive," drawing out the finish in what appeared a faux-jam. It was as close as the band got to improv all night, but the cues and changes appeared quite rehearsed. Had the band tried stretching it's wings earlier, perhaps this attempt would've come on smoother.
As the encore quickly rolled around, the band was running out of songs. Indeed the amount of love they've received is interesting considering lack of output.
"I'll Believe in Anything" was easily the highlight. A real stomping, catchy motherfucker, it towered above anything else in the set that night and the kids went berzerk. Scores of them jumped onstage and back, hoping to crowd surf. A few made it and many more went straight down, not like it mattered. They were eating it up.
After the final number some 17 year old jumped onstage, hugged Boeckner and whispered something in his ear. Probably something along the lines of: "I love you, this changed my life."
Ahhh to be young.