Live Review: Wolf Parade @ Viaduct 12/31/05
Bad, bad , bad. Shows can be bad for many reasons: The band sounds awful. The band is late. The band is boring. The band isn’t the band you thought it was and when you shout out an erroneous song request they flip you off, call you an asshole and make everyone in the crowd turn around and laugh at you. Actually, that last bit would make a bad show good. Bad shows are annoying. No one wants to give her money to a group that doesn’t give a shit about performing. They leave you feeling ripped-off and angry. But bad shows are even more painful when: A) You know that the band in question is capable of putting on a show that can drive you over the cliff of acceptable (sober) public activity with its ecstatic zest B) The lackluster performance is no fault of the band C) It’s New Year’s Eve, and you’ve convinced your friends to start 2006 at this particular show because this band was your “it” band of 2005 and you know this is going to be a stellar way to end/start the year. Wolf Parade could have used some vulgarity on New Year’s. They could have used a riot. They needed something to shake the Viaduct to its knees. Or at least to attention. I’ll have to say that this was one of the worst, if not the worst, crowd I have ever kept company with at a show anywhere in this city. Yes, I understand that this was a New Year’s show, and I was probably the anomaly, being more interested in watching the band than doing the acceptable New Year’s Eve get-shit-faced-find-someone-to-get-into-my-pants routine, but people were already wasted before opener Jason Forrest hit the stage at ten o’clock. Possibly including Mr. Forrest himself. Those who weren’t dry humping were sitting blank-faced on the fringes of the theatre, as lively as me being forced to listen to my mother talk about her new job selling office equipment. Yes, it was NYE with Pitchfork, and people were too busy forgetting their horrible year or too busy trying to impress people to be able to live in the moment and view this as just another show where they could relax and rock out to some good tunes. After a psychotic laptop show by Jason Forrest and a nondescript set by Blood on the Wall, there was a half-assed New Year’s countdown that, according to most people’s watches, happened a few minutes too late. At “midnight” we pretended to sing “Auld Lang Syne” while a pathetic balloon drop served to be more annoying than festive. By the time Wolf Parade hit the stage I was ready to leave. But hey, it was New Year’s, and I still clung to the hope that my Canadian darlings could salvage the night. I just couldn’t get into it. They started snappily enough with “Fancy Claps,” but there was scarcely room to move, let alone dance. And I think I was the only person willing to actually participate in the song title’s said clapping during the chorus. From my perspective at least, perhaps five percent of the crowd was even paying attention to the band. And that five percent was beyond putting their hands together. It looked like Wolf Parade was at least trying. They only had so much room on the cramped stage, but Dan Boeckner was doing his rock star thing with his angry, jerky gestures and his greasy hair and pasty, tattooed biceps. And Spencer Krug was his adorable, key-slap-happy self, bouncing behind his keyboard and singing the hell out of melodies. They stuck with the most upbeat tracks from last year’s album and e.p., including “Shine A Light,” “You Are a Runner and I am my Father’s Son,” and “Disco Sheets.” Then, about forty minutes into their set, the show came to a halt. Whether through technical issues or incompetence, the sound seemed off all night, with overpowering microphones and an altogether off-centered sound, and now Krug’s keyboard decided that it was going to malfunction. The band worked for about ten minutes to fix the problem, which involved a lot of shrugging and running of fingers through hair. Electronics man Hadji Bakara mused, “Well, this just goes to show that Pitchfork doesn’t always get it right.” They finally got things back together and trooped through “This Heart’s on Fire,” after which the keyboard’s meltdown repeated. Krug seemed to have lost hope and said the show might be over, at which point one of the more sophisticated members of the crowd jeered, “Pussies!” Thankfully the keyboard came back so the band could uplift us with “I’ll Believe in Anything,” which I think is unanimously every Wolf Parade fan’s favorite Wolf Parade song. Bouncing and even light moshing ensued. After the song the band left the stage, and either through confusion or lack of interest, the crowd gave a half-hearted cheer for an encore. Wolf Parade did come back, inviting Blood on the Wall onstage to help with the deliciously cliché “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” And that was it. I pulled my jacket from underneath some drunk chick’s butt, deftly evaded the hugs of a euphorically smashed Jason Forrest, hitched a ride home and was in bed by two. I’m almost thankful Krug’s keyboard crashed because I didn’t think I could handle it much longer. Rather than being pissed-off, I felt bad for Wolf Parade. I feel bad that this was the first and last impression they made for some of these fans. I felt bad that things were out of their control, that a bad venue, a bad crowd, and bad equipment plagued a night that was probably too whorish to let them command a set anyway. Yay, New Year’s.