Over the course of their now more-than-three-decade long career, The Wedding Present have become a British musical institution. They were one of the bands featured on NME’s now legendary C86 cassette, and were arguably one of the most successful – of the 21 other bands on the tape, only Primal Scream might rival them for a stronger claim to fame. Famed BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel championed them over the years, and their churning guitar sound helped to influence an entire generation of British indie pop that followed after them. While they’ve always had more of a cult following in the US, it’s a devoted one. The Weddoes, as their UK fans affectionately refer to them, last played in DC five years ago for the 21st anniversary of their 1991 album Seamonsters, but the time away didn’t keep a crowd from turning up for their return to the Rock and Roll Hotel last week.
The band released their ninth album, Going Going…, late last year, but tracks from the record only made up a third of the 18-song setlist. Opening the show with “Unthinking,” a b-side from a rare 2012 single, they set the tone early that this was a show for the fans who had followed the band faithfully for years. That’s not to say that they avoided the more popular songs altogether – “Kennedy” from 1989’s Bizarro, “Come Play With Me” and “Flying Saucer” (both 1992 singles which featured on the compilations Hit Parade 1 and Hit Parade 2 respectively), and “Dalliance” from Seamosters were all charting hits in the UK – but for every one of those they played, there were songs like “Go Out and Get ‘Em Boy” (the band’s first single, self-released in 1985) and “Mothers” (a Jean Paul Satre Experience cover which appeared as a b-side on the Seamonsters-era single for “Lovenest”). Other highlights ranged from two tracks from their 1987 debut album George Best (“Give My Love to Kevin” and “A Million Miles”) to “Interstate 5” from their 2005 return from hiatus, Take Fountain.
Band founder and frontman David Gedge remains the sole consistent member, though drummer Charlie Layton has been with the group long enough to have played at their last few DC shows. Guitarist Marcus Kain and bassist Danielle Wadey, on the other hand, are so new to the band that they don’t even play on the new album, and made their North American debut at the show. Both already seemed well seasoned and integrated into the band, though, and to the casual listener it may well have seemed like they’d been there forever. Kain in particular added his own distinctive energy to the songs, playing well as Gedge’s foil.
The band sticks ruthlessly to its long-held policy of not doing encores, but after Gedge explained that they wouldn’t be coming back to the stage after leaving, they launched into their final song of the night, “Santa Monica.” It’s the last track on the new record and also, at over ten minutes, one of the longest songs in the catalog of a band who rarely goes longer than five minutes on a single track. As one of the mellower songs in the band’s discography it was the perfect comedown for the end of the night. We can only hope that it won’t be another five years until the band returns.
Oakland, California-based indie pop singer-songwriter Colleen Green opened the show with an energetic set that drew from her most recent, self-titled EP released last year along with tracks from her 2015 album I Want to Grow Up.