The Louisiana Welcomes Wand

by John Western

Photo credit: Wand Facebook.

In a recent Reddit AMA, Los Angeles band Wand revealed that during the recording of new album Plum they were inspired by bands with a “tireless work ethic”. They themselves seem to fit the bill after constant cycles of recording albums, releasing three in two years, (Ganglion Reef in 2014 as well as Golem and 1000 Days in 2015) and touring with little to no break. The band finally did give themselves a short and well deserved rest before returning in September of last year with their fourth album, Plum, an album as equally inspired by Pink Floyd as it is by Velvet Underground. The record is somewhat of a departure from their psych-rock routes, setting them apart from other bands in their scene, such as Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall - The latter of these actually signed Wand to his label, GOD? Records, and took them on their first ever tour as his opening act.

And so Wand returned to Bristol for the first time in three years to play one of its best and most intimate venues, The Louisiana. This evening the venue’s stamps inform us that “Big Jeff approved the Louisiana”, and anyone who is a regular of the Bristol live music scene is sure to know DJ and frequent gig-goer Jeffrey Johns – You know you’ve picked the right band to see in Bristol if Big Jeff can be seen head-banging at the front of the crowd.

First on were Swiss duo East Sister, performing their self-described brand of “cinematic pop”. The atmospheric and delicate sound is unexpected given the nature of the headline act, with a voice not dissimilar to Julien Baker’s backed by Twin Peaks-esque instrumentation. You could have heard a pin drop during each song, and they seem to be well received by the crowd.

Then Wand walk through the crowd and onto the stage in the small, dark and sold-out upstairs room of the Louisiana. They erupt into the opening of Plum single ‘Bee Karma’, which builds three times before they halt and begin album highlight ‘White Cat’.

For the majority of the set there is minimal crowd interaction, the band easing from song to song with only short pauses (if any at all), which gives the entire set the feel of an extended jam. The set leans heavily on cuts from Plum, and while ‘White Cat’ is still ringing in our ears they launch into ‘Bee Karma’, in full this time, which sounds like it could be an outtake from Radiohead’s sophomore album, The Bends. The delicate ‘Charles de Gaulle’ does an excellent job of emphasising the excellent vocals of frontman/guitarist Corey Hanson and Sofia Arreguin on synths, and their back and forth sounds as beautiful live as it does on the record. Plum also contains what is perhaps Wand’s best track, ‘Blue Cloud’, a seven-minute sprawling epic which melodically builds and crescendos with an extended full band jam, leaving the audience watching on in awe.

After the conclusion of ‘Blue Cloud’, Hanson introduces “Spencer the pedal” from his pedal-board, who happens to have a squeaky voice similar to that of Mickey Mouse, and says “hi everybody, I’m Spencer from America”. Following Spencer’s return to the pedal-board, the band launch into a few older tracks, including ‘1000 Days’ and the competitor of ‘Blue Cloud’ for the greatest Wand song accolade, ‘Fire on the Mountain (I-II-III)’. The chaotic verses and falsetto choruses of the track resemble a psychedelic answer to Muse’s ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.

At the end of the set the band begin to leave the stage until Hanson announces to the crowd, and seemingly to the band, that his “monitor says we can play one more”. They opt for ‘Melted Rope’ from second album Golem, Wand’s most Tame Impala moment. The two-minute outro of swirling synths is a fitting way to end such a high energy gig.