Words by Rangi White.
Australian shores were shaking under the weight of pure riffage earlier this month as Dallas’s finest trio of doom-connisuers, Wo Fat arrived here for the first time, bringing their intense display of unintelligibly heavy kick-assery all down the east coast for the groove-hungry aliens of the Aussie psych rock scene to indulge in delightedly. The earthquake of a tour ended last night at Crowbar, Fortitude Valley, and I had the explicit pleasure of seeing their final show with some of the finest local supports on offer in tow – Stoker and Fumarole.
Before anyone can predict the modality of this review, I’m going to go ahead and just say the whole show was stupidly fucking epic. Crowbar presented itself to me as it generally does – a precious black spot on the tarmac of Brunswick street – and I was greeted with the welcoming sight of polished wood and black walls and as per usual, the first schooner of Crowbar house lager was the harbinger of an awesome night.
The show started with a concussive bang as one of Brisbane’s best graced the stage – Stoker. Consisting of three of the handsomest young groove rockers anyone ever did see – Jarrah Thornell (Drums), Ethan Smith (Guitar), and Joel Zahner, (Bass/Vox). Stoker present a shred-alicious blues/psych/stoner rock’n’roll style that has elevated them massively in recent months – an international support slot such as this is all but proof of that. Opening with an improvised jam into their first song Teleport I was as always impressed by the musical aspects of their performance as well as their huge onstage energy. The delightful rhythmic cohesion of Joel’s bass-lines and Jarrah‘s drum grooves creates the space within which Ethan’s fingers weave their magic and as per normal, they gave my eardrums a run for their money. Probably one of the best openers a show could have, anyone in the room feeling tired before one of their sets is inevitably revitalised by the purity of such good quality rock n roll.
Up next was Fumarole, another three piece powerhouse from the depths of Brisbane’s stoner rock reservoir. Bringing a completely different strain of heavy rock into the mix, Kurt Werder (Guitar/Vox), Dan Bartsch (Bass), and Ryan Stewart (Drums) played a solid set that featured a more modern approach to the art of riffage. Slower, heavier riffs started to fill the halls of Crowbar and I was taken aback by the way the vocal rhythms were structured around the rhythm guitar styled verse-riffs, and the repetitiveness of the vocal rhythms gave the insidious lyrical content more clarity and helped Werder‘s vocal approach to be entirely more effective I thought.
Stewart‘s drums are worth a mention- I enjoyed the use of double kicks to fill out the drum parts however they weren’t overpowering to the point where any lack of guitar texture was evident, instead complimenting the classic-rock style riffs without over-metallising. Fumarole‘s interesting juxtaposition of classic rock with more punk/metal overtones is very engaging and lends an individual tone to their music, the only thing I could noticeably fault was the lighting – not as interesting as the other sets, maybe the house guy was on break? Otherwise, it was an awesome performance.
And finally, they entered. Taking the stage with a complete confidence that comes from years and years of riffing, Wo Fat looked upon a Brisbane crowd for the first time and was met with what seemed to be a mix of respect and adoration. Crowbar seemed to grow in size as they started, it was as if there were a number of people hiding in the shadows that crept forward slowly to meet the gaze of Kent Stump (Guitar/vox), Zack Busby (Bass), and Michael Walter (Drums.)
Launching into Black Code with what I can only describe as some sort of calm ferocity, every person there felt the unwavering power of Texan sludge as it washed over them. The unadulterated masters of the halftime breakdown, the sluggish, powerful atmosphere they create through their tone and rhythmic control speaks to me of the arid landscapes of their home Texas, the dry hugeness of a harsh, empty environment is audible in each song they write and when I closed my eyes, I felt like I was taken there, and dropped in the middle of some indescribable fuzzy realm of riff-infested doom. (Take me back!)
I love the way that they utilise blues scales and keys in their songs as it lends that melancholic southern american feel, and then the heaviness is rendered by amazing rhythmic intonation (on Walter‘s part, slower sections, halftime sections, oddly-timed rhythmic patters)…it’s a delight to hear and see performed. Considering they are a mainly instrumental based band, I expected there to be a general lack of expression through the performance but I was soooo wrong. Achieved through the manipulation of guitar tones, all of the different guitar effects were kept restricted to the timbre they were trying to emulate in each section – the ensuing variation in tone throughout songs being probably the most impressive aspect of Wo Fat‘s to me – perhaps the secret lies somewhere between the three expression wah pedals Stump had at his disposal all night?
A stand out feature of last night to me was the crowds reaction to Wo Fat – not the sort of environment I’m used to at Crowbar! There was little moshing, and no real genre of people there – the variation of people in attendance in terms of age, gender, and social context was really interesting, there was a mix of different people there however everyone seemed to be in some sort of awestruck trance by the end of the performance…it was mutual appreciation that filled the intimately-sized audience last night.
Trying to remember last night as anything other than incredible is going to be difficult, I was exposed to such high-potency riffage that I’m still feeling it today…thankfully. Everyone I spoke to after the performance had the same look of laughable astonishment on their faces when I asked them their thoughts on the performance…hopefully it means that it wont be the last we see of Wo Fat!
I loved the fact they came and mingled with the audience after too, it’s inspirational to know that musicians who have such respect in a particular genre are still happy to relate that to those who give it and solidifies the quality of the band – on and off the stage! Special thanks to Anthony Blayney from Your Mate Bookings who has been working hard to get international bands of high calibre to travel here and play Australian shows, the enthusiasm that is being facilitated in our music scene as a result is priceless! I’m looking forward to what comes next for Wo Fat, hopefully our next international treat is along the same lines of excellence!