Sunday, March 10, 2013

Review: Wussy at the North Star Bar in Philly

You may recall that last month I posted this absurdly gushingly fannish article about my current favorite American band (and yes, I feel compelled to remind you each time that I really hate their name, but whatever....).

And I mentioned in that piece that I hadn't seen them live in a few years. Well, consider this your update on their live prowess....

If you have any interest in harmony-filled indie rock that drones, twangs, rises, falls, smokes and seethes like some sort of unholy/gorgeous melding of X, Shoot Out the Lights-era Richard and Linda Thompson, the Velvet Underground, Pixies and Eleventh Dream Day, for the love of fuck, go see Wussy.

They are hundreds of miles past their 2005 beginnings. As I told you in that other article, they were great way back then, but the bottom end of the 2005 live show was, as the Brits say, a little dodgy. So, maybe "great" is actually pushing it a little as a description of those days. How about: the albums were (and continue to be) essentially perfect, but they were just a competent live band. Then, as I also told you before, drummer Joe Klug joined in 2009 or so, and everything got much much better. A gig in Philly at the Fire in 2010 showcased just how far they had advanced in a very short time.

Jump forward to 2013. I saw Wussy at the North Star Bar in Philly on Friday night. Despite being plagued by a nearly atrocious sound mix for the first five songs or so (what the hell, Mr. Soundman? But at least you fixed it), they were wonderful. And they have, in the ensuing three years since I last saw them, done perfect little (or, in some case, not-so-little) tweaks to song arrangements that really play to their strengths.

I am completely stealing from a line of Joe Carducci's when I tell you that the single most underrated factor in rock and roll is the kick/snare pattern and the resulting relationship between the drums and bass. Do they lock down with one another and drive the bus, or is all that kind of questionable? Double-special points are awarded to bands that not only figure that one out, but add some slashing and rising and falling guitar parts.

Wussy has nailed all that stuff perfectly. On Friday night the drums and bass were locked in and the guitars (electric *and* pedal steel) crashed and burned all around them in the most beautiful ways. The vocal harmonies did their perfect John/Exene/Neil Young/Robin Lane beautiful/edgy sweet/fuck-you blend. And it *all* -- yes, every single song** -- was nearly perfect, but there was one particular, even-better-than-the-rest part: a gorgeous, instrumental intro to Yellow Cotton Dress that stole the show, alternating between a frantic Velvets-y/Eleventh Dream Day-ish rumble and something a little more ethereal that made me wonder if they were headed for Sister Ray or Love Will Tear Us Apart. Either of those destinations would have been just fine, and the actual result was, yeah, even better. And then the encore -- I don't think it's possible to juxtapose two very different songs that showcase all the strengths of this band better than Don't Leave Just Now and Rigor Mortis. The first one nearly makes me cry when I hear it because I happen to associate it with something sad and beautiful in my life from a few years ago, and the latter rips like Crazy Horse on a tequila and caffeine bender. Wistful followed by Fuck Yeah. Yes, please....

The bottom line: Wussy is killing it live, and not nearly enough of you are going to see them when they do. Can we all get on with fixing that, please?


** Two things: One: there was one song that Chuck declared "a mess." OK, but it was a beautiful mess. Two, a small digression: like any good dorky fanboy, I leapt on the opportunity, when invited by the band on social media, to suggest songs for the Philly setlist. Like any good band that knows better than its fans, Wussy did not play a single song that night that I had suggested. The fact that they blew my mind *anyway* is maybe the best testament of all to the undying strength of their catalogue, across the board. As some guy named Christgau noted, there really isn't a subpar song on any of their five albums. (But, oh-fave-band-of-mine, if you happen to be reading this, just as a reminder for the next Philly show (or maybe Newark, DE on April 27 ... Still haven't figured out if I will be at that one), it'd be pretty awesome to hear Little Miami, Retarded, Melody Ranch, Sun Giant and Waiting Room. Y'know, just sayin'.... Heh).

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