Five and a half years ago, at the close of their Expo 86 tour, Wolf Parade announced an "indefinite hiatus" and they followed through, playing a couple shows in 2011 and then effectively ending their band. Spencer moved on to multiple iterations of his Moonface alter-ego and Dan (after breaking up with his wife and bandmate in Handsome Furs) tried his hand in multiple efforts including Divine Fits (with Britt Daniel of Spoon) and Operators, his current band. In the intervening years, Spencer also announced that Sunset Rubdown was gone (his 'side project' during the Wolf Parade years that in my mind may have been the greatest band of all time) so basically five years ago, we lost Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, and Handsome Furs, three of my most beloved bands of the decade. And the "Canadian indie rock revolution" also kind of died at the same time. Broken Social Scene stopped making records. Arcade Fire's 2013 release Reflektor wasn't just not good -- it was actively bad in retrospect -- and the indie rock that fueled my music love for more than a decade kind of dissipated. Even Spencer's Moonface albums, which started so promisingly, fell off a bit with his back-to-back piano based albums that felt more like leftovers than strong new entries and wasn't really anything at all like Wolf Parade. So it was with great joy that I greeted the news that Wolf Parade was coming back in 2016, for a small series of select shows, and a surprise EP release in the midst of the tour.
The shows began in New York - of course, five straight sold out nights at the Bowery Ballroom. Unfortunately they sold out in seconds and I couldn't get any tickets -- I found out too late about the pre-sale and tried all day on the actual sale date but the scalpers were active and the tickets were gone. I'm sure I would have bought tickets for every single show if I could have. Alas, I waited for a couple months for the re-sale ticket prices to go down (they didn't) and bit the bullet to buy a single ticket to their Thursday night show. Wolf Parade at the Bowery Ballroom. I mean, I pretty much would have paid anything. This was in May and it was amazing -- all the old favorites and I was right up front and Spencer and Dan were right there, in front of me on stage, taking me back to the dozens of times I've seen them both live, alone and together. By the end of the show I couldn't even speak.
They then did shows in Toronto and London but returned to New York last week for the Northside Festival, an amazing series of concerts on the north side of Williamsburg, playing a fully free (!) show in a parking lot near McCarren Park in Brooklyn. I waited in line on a bright sunny (but not too hot) day with my "reservation" (not a ticket) for a while but once they opened the gates, the line moved fast and there was plenty of space in the parking lot to wait for the show. Opening act Land of Talk played for about 45 minutes while I had a drink or two in the gated off drinking area before moving out toward the stage as Land of Talk left the stage. The crowd parted to use the port-a-johns (yeah, eww) and maybe grab some drinks and food and I diced through the remaining concertgoers up close to the stage. So again, I was right up front, in front of Spencer and Dan, when they came to the stage.
Their performance at Northside was something special to behold. By then they'd gotten their rhythm fully back, fully working together, and I'd had a month now to listen to the four new songs on their new EP -- they played three of them at the show. But ultimately, it was the beautiful outdoor setting, with the sun setting behind us, over the water, and the stars lighting up the sky by the end of the night as one of the greatest bands of all time lit up the stage. I can't say enough about how great they played -- ripping through perfect versions of all their greatest songs -- "You are a Runner", "Shine a Light", "This Heart's on Fire", "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts" and of course, OF COURSE, "I'll Believe in Anything". I pogo-ed so much to the music, more than I have for any show in recent memory, reminding me of an earlier time (a younger time) when the energy of the music I was watching overwhelmed me during a show. I don't know how many times I've seen Spencer and Dan (apart and together) and I don't know if they are going to get back together again now that this mini-tour has ended but I do know that for one amazing night (well two, but the Northside night was really special) I got to experience a joy for music I don't think I've felt in years and retain the hope that Spencer and Dan -- in every way, with every band -- will continue to give me that joy again and again. Thanks guys. (Oh and Dante and Arlen, thank you too!)
This blog belongs to Bill Elenbark.
Lover of songs. Writer of wrongs.