Guitar Wolf Redefines Loud @ The Firebird
First, let me just say, I’m not your mom. Maybe I hassle my friends for not wearing bike helmets and I refuse to put the car in drive until everyone’s buckled up, but when it comes to hearing protection, it’s your ears, man. You do what you need to do. That said, if you found yourself at The Firebird last night without some variety of hearing protection, you’re probably still half deaf, and that’s a bummer, since there are a ton more shows to attend before Holy Week wraps on Sunday.
Four bands last night, each remarkably louder than the next. We started with St. Louis’ own surf-punk trio DinoFight!
Silliness has never sounded so dangerous. While DinoFight!’s song topics range from vampires and zombies to UFOs and werewolves, there was no want for driving guitar riffs and complicated drum patterns. And their cover of Wayne’s World classic Ballroom Blitz was competent and classy. If you’re up for a road trip, you can catch them next at Red Fish Blue Fish in St. Chuck, on Thursday, April 19th, at 7:30.
Second to the stage, Desoto lifers Ded Bugs. I’ve seen Ded Bugs listed on RFT concert announcements since I was a teenager, but this is the first time I’ve seen them play. Cartoony and fun, but also pretty freakin’ loud. They got the crowd to howl for Guitar Wolf (it was a full moon, after all).
At least I thought they were loud, until Transistors (from Christchurch, New Zealand) started in. I didn’t have a good line of sight to drummer Olly Crawford-Ellis from where I was standing, so when I could hear the lead vocals but couldn’t see anyone singing, I was pretty pleased. You know I love it when the drummer sings lead. Turns out lead vocals are split between and guitarist James Harding, but Harding’s microphone was barely on, so it didn’t even count. Paranoid, frenetic, and LOUD. They gave us the first and only busted drumstick of the night. Also, these guys are expert-level concert photo fodder. They never stop moving long enough to get a bead on them, at least not with my consumer-grade camera.
The crowd filled in during Transistors’ set, and people started bouncing around a bit. But when Drum Wolf (Toro) swaggered onstage, his hair slicked back Fonzie style, wearing leather pants and dark sunglasses, the crowd kinda lost its collective mind. I don’t think Guitar Wolf (Seiji) was on stage two minutes before two or three people in the audience started slinging tall boys of PBR all over the place, soaking the drop ceiling in front of the stage so it dripped for several minutes afterwards. There was a little guy with long hair and a leather jacket whose main job was to run onto stage and pick up empty beer cans as they were tossed at the band (affectionately). For the next hour, whatever gauge I had for what loud was was obliterated.
Did you know Eric Friedl (Oblivians, Memphis TN) first saw Guitar Wolf play a garage band festival in Memphis and created the Goner Records label for the sole purpose of getting Guitar Wolf to an American audience? You probably did, but I did not. Seiji had a fat GONER bumper sticker stuck to his guitar, too.
I was hugging my favorite column on the floor, so I could see all the mayhem center stage, but I barely got jostled (like a BOSS). Every five or ten minutes, you’d see two or three photographers get shoved against the stage, holding their cameras up so they wouldn’t conk the monitors. I saw one guy with a bloody lip, but most people were cheerful and gentle in their moshing (stage diving is really dangerous, kids). The crowd was thick enough that if you went back to get more beer, you’d lose your spot, so the beer throwing was kept to a minimum after the initial baptism. You’d think it’d be confusing that the band doesn’t speak English and none of us spoke Japanese, but it didn’t really matter. Seiji would start some stage banter in Japanese and when we didn’t understand it, he’d say it louder. When he wasn’t pointing his guitar at us like it was an AK 47, he was holding his hand up in a wolf-shaped shadow puppet. It was pretty awesome.
Then Seiji pulled a girl on stage and gave her his guitar, coaching her through some vague directions based pretty much on mind reading. This took what seemed like 15 minutes, but wasn’t even annoying. I’m not sure how.
There was screaming, punching, crying, stage diving, the drummer took his shirt off, then there was a 2 minute break, and a high-octane encore just as fierce as the first half of the show. These guys are not young anymore, and I assumed they had done their worst. I was settling up at the bar when the second encore started, so I took a spot back at the soundboard to watch the remaining shenanigans. AND SHENANIGANS REMAINED.
Seiji and Billy started pulling people on stage to stage dive, starting with this tall lady in a corset and 12″ spiked mohawk. Another gal jumped off the stage chest first into an eager sea of hands that hadn’t seen second base in a long, long time. They pulled more people up, but then had them get down on all fours. It wasn’t until the second layer started that I realized they were building a pyramid.
Not obvious from this shitty camera phone picture, but second row from the top, on the right? That’s Kevin Schneider from The Blind Eyes. Seiji climbed to the top, his head and shoulders disappearing behind the drop ceiling, and he finished the song from there. As soon as the pyramid dismantled and the band left the stage, the club cut the power to the soundboard and turned the lights on. It was 20 minutes past curfew, and I don’t know who the really drunk dude was arguing with club management at the soundboard, but I think Guitar Wolf had at least two more encores left in them. Which is not sane. But it would have been cool.
Note: Earlier in the day, it was announced that guitar amp pioneer Jim Marshall passed away at 88 years old. Guitar Wolf’s show was definitely a fitting tribute to a man who spent most of his life helping musicians turn it up to eleven. RIP.