LIVE MUSIC: Wildlife @ The Red Palace - 1/19/12

There is so much that can go wrong when you insert any musical genre before the word “punk”. Pop-Punk? Art-Punk? Post-Proto-Pseudo-Punk? All serve to diminish the actual punk of the thing, but one supposes that they are necessary in a time when the lines between genres become more and more blurred. Even worse, most bands, once saddled with the burden of this blood red generalization to wear prominently on their sleeves, most bands give in to all of the tropes and traditions that they’re new made-just-for-them genre would suggest, and never manage to rise above the branding.

Luckily, Wildlife is not one of those bands.

On Thursday night at The Red Palace, singer/lead guitarist Dean Pavinsky’s voice sailed somewhere between the assured tenor of fellow Canadian Win Butler and the screamier side of Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, while the rest of the band ganged up with instruments and voices to create a wall of noise exponentially larger than the walls of the room that would purport to contain them. If this was a band who is just finding their way in the rock world you wouldn’t know it. Playing to a room of about 20 people as if they were playing to a sold out crowd at Wembley Stadium (drummer Dwayne Christie finished the set standing on his drums), the five piece from Canada, crashed, howled and wailed their way through a set of loud, anthemic, uplifting rock that spat triumphantly in the face of such a small turnout.

Keyboardist Tim Daugulis and Guitarist Graham Plant of WildlifeWinning over the crowd with a mix of heart, musicianship and old school Canadian charm, the band pulled mostly from their upcoming album, Strike Hard, Young Diamond, and while that record my suffer slightly from overly-slick production, there’s enough of the bands soul in there to give you an idea of exactly what you are in for when seeing Wildlife live. Tracks like “Sea Dreamer”, “Killing For Fun” and “Stand In The Water” shed their sheen to become raw blasts of emotional confessionalism played with a conviction more suited to bands 20 years into their careers than 5 guys just 6 years down that road. The fact that the chorale refrain at the end of “Killing For Fun” prompted the audience to lift their voices in response should tell you something about the power with which this relatively young band plays.

Late in the set, one audience member, a fellow Canadian herself, broke into “Oh, Canada” and the band took a brief break from the music to join in the sing-a-long, finishing up by espousing on  the joys of maple syrup and sausage gravy (not combined, and not in that order). It was a telling moment for these strangers in a strangely unpopulated (at least this particular night) land. In the space of less than an hour, the members of Wildlife were able to connect with the audience, and do so by simply being themselves and believing 150% in their music. That level of conviction, that ability to connect...that’s what stars are made of.
 
Leaving this particular show I can’t help feeling that maybe this is what it was like to see Muse or Radiohead before everybody knew their name (and before Muse cornered the market on rock lasers). I also can’t predict whether Wildlife will ever “make it’ or not, but if I had to guess, big things are in store for these guys in the next for years. If not though, it most certainly won’t be for lack of trying.


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