Wooden Wand || Café Oto, Hackney || 29 June 2012
Review by Chris T Popper
Ever since I knew Wooden Wand was touring our little island again I have been in a state of high anticipation… mixed in with a sizeable chunk of excitement. In February 2011, Dr Roddy and myself were lucky enough to interview and have a couple of ‘sharpeners’ with James Jackson Toth in York and witnessed an excellent show. So hopes were high for his appearance at the Café Oto in Hackney with support from Dead Rat Orchestra and Duke Garwood.
As the rest of the mackerel shoal will confirm I am rarely late for anything… okay I mean I’m late for everything and I entered the venue with new recruit MisSardine (a sardine amongst friendly mackerel) to find Dead Rat Orchestra already on stage. Greeting Dr Roddy and his partner in crime Isla White (our hello’s being louder than the music, sorry DRO!) we soon settled down with bottles of the fearfully expensive Pale Ale. Luckily I don’t currently have a mortgage so was able to quickly take one out via the mobile to allow me to purchase a few pints.
It became apparent very quickly I should have skipped the shower and arrived earlier because Dead Rat Orchestra were breathtakingly original and I would have loved to see their entire set. Catching the second half of their inimitable style of abstract folk; it culminated in the three members languidly walking off stage in to the centre of the venue with a (sizeable!) log and hand axes glinting off the lights. As they hammered a hypnotic beat off the aforementioned log one lone voice sang of love, deceit and betrayal. It reminded me of the beautifully evocative Wicker Man soundtrack by the legendary Paul Giovanni – high praise indeed. For its sheer originality and stunning visual impact I was mightily impressed. They play Oxford on the 14th July and I suspect I will be leaving the (always hugely enjoyable) Charlbury Beer Festival early to catch them in full flight.
Following this (which I guess wasn’t easy) we had Duke Garwood’s skilful guitar work and melancholy lyrics setting the scene for the night’s main event which we were looking forward to more than David Cameron going to a ‘country supper’.
It was time for the man from Kentucky. Now we have been championing Mr Wand for some considerable time, his music simultaneously thoughtful and unsettling while casting shards of light on our darker impulses and fears. Way too modest to be comfortable with comparisons of names spoken in hushed tones (and I agree, so I’d be doing the man a great disservice to mention any now…) Wooden Wand simply deserves to be taken for what he is; a true one off artist with a gift for melodies and lyrics that had the assemblage lapping up his crooked vista on life.
Sat in the middle of the stage with guitar (and drink close to hand) he started with a new one Strangers Bar, inspired by Intervention the infamous US television show (you need to see it to believe it!). Following that with Mother Midnight before mixing in old favourite Uncle Bill, he chatted to the audience between songs with typical candour.
Southern Colorado Song (about the sibling Dougherty gang that were chased across the US) is mesmerising. DNR Waltz equally as good (and ‘another’ one of my personal favourites) he easily flits between old and new material with a smooth and assured hand.
We are treated to Days This Long and Nobody’s Home before he finishes with Death Seat’s Bobby (opening line, ‘He painted his house the colour of skin, so if the situation called for it he could blend in’).
The encore included Creature Of Habit from Born Bad, which delighted Dr Roddy and myself being an old favourite of ours. As I say the set was a brilliant mix of old and new… Enough of the old material to go ‘yesssss’ in your own head when familiar bars start (Uncle Bill had me instinctively pumping my fist like a part brained cretin), while the new stuff seemed to have an instant reassurance of quality without sounding samey or derivative at all (a difficult trick to pull off and yes I have just used the word samey in a review…)
I should also mention a thank you to the lady who got WW another drink so he didn’t have to leave when the calls for the encore started. Seemingly lacking a backstage area (?) meant there was no need for him to stand at the side of the stage in full view while the crowd called for more, which would have been ‘kinda embarrassing’ as he put it. Instead he could sup his freshly topped up drink and just carry on.
A fitting finale and with the audience fully sated Dr Roddy and myself managed to elbow our way through the throng to say hello and get the picture attached to this review (grinning like Cheshire cats as you can see). With the promise of a return accompanied by the full band in the Autumn, I have a feeling I may be visiting the capital again in a couple of months.
At Mad Mackerel’s scaly towers we’ve often pondered the question why WW hasn’t sold zillions of records, and I still have no answer. At least it means the next big thing with oodles of talent may avoid being called the ‘new/next Wooden Wand’ as I imagine Mr James Jackson Toth would hate that as much as us.
Download Wooden Wand – Winter In Kentucky mp3 (from Briarwood)
Download Wooden Wand – Big Mouth USA mp3 (from Briarwood)
Download Wooden Wand – Wither Away (demo version) mp3 (from Briarwood Deluxe Edition)
Download Wooden Wand – Bones For Doctor Swah mp3 (from Archives Vol 3)
Download Wooden Wand – Nails And Spikes mp3 (from Archives Vol 3)
Download Wooden Wand – I Wouldn’t Do That mp3 (from Born Bad)
Download Wooden Wand – Creature Of Habit mp3 (from Born Bad)
Download Wooden Wand – Uncle Bill mp3 (from Wither Thou Goest, Cretin?)
Download Wooden Wand – The Fly mp3 (from Wither Thou Goest, Cretin?)
Download Wooden Wand – Mary And Child mp3 (Born Against Cover, Aquarium Drunkard Session)
Download Wooden Wand – Fly Into The Mystery mp3 (Jonathan Richman Cover, Aquarium Drunkard Session)
Download Duke Garwood – Summer Gold mp3 (from Dreamboatsafari)
Download Duke Garwood – Jesus Got A Gun mp3 (from Dreamboatsafari)Follow @madmackerel