Words by Billy Beale
Live music is not the same today as it once was. It’s become unusual to see a Marshall stack truly used in anger; they’ve become more of a stage prop. Wolf People hark back to a time when titans walked the earth, their riffs shook the ground and their guitar solos were long and beautiful.
Throughout the set, Wolf People demonstrate incredible sensitivity and control over their sound. There is a lot of noise happening on stage. Drummer, Tom Watt, is head-down and focused as he thunders away on the skins, while Dan Davies sets the bass groove with a stoic expression.
The Sunflower Lounge barely has room for the band’s incredible backline of authentic vintage equipment. Wolf People’s set focuses on the heavier side of their repertoire but it’s filled with peaks and troughs within the extended tracks. Softer moments precede a pounding fuzzy riff or a squawky wah-wah solo.
Despite sounding ‘classic’, it’s impossible to accuse Wolf People of sounding quite like anybody else. Vocalist Jack Sharp, as well as being one half of a two-guitar assault, contributes to the band’s sonic identity with a softer lilting voice more common to the folk genre. A far cry from the Ozzy-esque wail one expects to accompany such heavy riffs, it’s nearer King Crimson’s Greg Lake.
The interplay of Sharp’s guitar with Joe Hollick’s is the source of the set’s most memorable moments. It’s like the jazz mastery of The Allman Brothers Band in their prime put to use on the intensely innovative folk rock fusion style of Rory Gallagher. If that sounds a bit beard-strokey and self-consciously clever then I’m not doing justice to how powerful, raw and utterly compelling it sounds in person. Wolf People are extremely intelligent songwriters and musicians – channeling various strains of folk and Anatolian rock into their playing – but they never self-indulge to the point of losing the crowd. Their mastery of their craft is obvious, yet they make it feel very spontaneous and alive. Rarely do you get the opportunity to go and see musicians this good up close and personal. It is a privilege.
The dreaded end draws near. Wolf People forgo the pageantry of an encore and announced their last song, inviting support act and solo instrumentalist Dean McPhee to join them. “Try and get it as atmospheric as possible” instructs Hollick. McPhee’s guitar style is the very definition; a gentle howling sound under waves of delay that sits alongside Wolf People surprisingly well. It’s not uncommon for the number of guitarists on a stage to be inversely proportional to the quality of the music they make together, but that’s not the case here.
You get the impression that Wolf People could have gone on stage completely unrehearsed, settled into a groove and just played an incredible off-the-cuff set. It cannot be overstated how seriously good they are live. While their records are equally impressive, the side of themselves that they showcase in the flesh needs to be heard to be believed.
For more on Wolf People, visit www.wolfpeople.co.uk
For more from The Sunflower Lounge, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com
For more from Birmingham Promoters, visit www.birminghampromoters.com