Wolf Alice @ U Street Music Hall - 2/27/15

If you’ve been paying any attention to the music press at all for the past year, you’ve probably heard about Wolf Alice. As one of those bands saddled with the “next big thing” label long before they’ve even managed to produce their first album, the group has a lot of expectations to live up to. Through several EP and single releases over the past two years, the band has introduced themselves to the world and honed their craft, in no apparent hurry to make a big statement despite having heavy hitters such as NME and BBC Radio 1 behind them.

The young British foursome is finally prepared to make that statement, releasing their debut album My Love Is Cool on June 22nd. Like many hopeful new bands, they’re headed to SXSW this month, and on the way they’re doing a series of US tour dates that will culminate at the Austin festival. On Friday night the band made a stop at U Street Music Hall, giving the District a chance to see what all of the hype is about.

Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell at U Street Music Hall (Photo by Matt Condon)

Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell at U Street Music Hall (Photo by Matt Condon)

Did the band live up to that hype? It depends on what you were expecting to see. Many early reviews of their work called them a return to 90s grunge, and while there are definitely recognizable elements of that sound in the shouted chorus of an early track like “Fluffy” (their 2013 single with which they opened the show), it’s clear that the band is seeking to move beyond such labels. This shift, whether conscious or not, was clear even in their track selection – for example, the choice of “Blush” and “90 Mile Beach”, the two quieter, slower songs on their 2013 Blush EP, to represent that release.

Not that the band didn’t rock out – they did, on tracks such as “Giant Peach,” the lead single off of the new album, and “Moaning Lisa Smile,” from last year’s Creature Songs EP. Which is to say that the band proved themselves to be very versatile, relying not just on grunge power chords, but also on psychedelic riffs and even folk-influenced passages to create their sonic palette. The dynamic range of the band was impressive, and while the 90s influences were clearly there to be heard, they had a lot more to offer.

If there was any problem with the set, it was that it was too short. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes is fine for an opening act, but for the headliner that everyone came to see? The audience was left wanting more (many standing and waiting for an encore that never came), and surprised to be leaving the venue so quickly. Hopefully as the band introduces more songs from the album into their performance they’ll be able to expand their set.

Baltimore band Trunkweed opened the show.

All photos by Matt Condon. Click to embiggen. 

(See more photos from this show/Matt's work HERE)