Let’s get this straight (despite the fact that I already said it in my Bland Man Festival introductory piece): Who books Wooden Shjips then puts them on a stage with a tiddler of a PA? It might have been big but it had no beef! Which is fine for Peter Broderick (we’ll get to that later), but not for Wooden Shjips. In case you haven’t noticed, I like Wooden Shjips.
Ripley Whatshisname’s guitar was also way low in the mix. Perhaps that’s how they wanted it, but I suspect it was more a problem at the desk, involving taste. Consequently all you could hear was the backwash of delay and echo and not the crisp break of the wave. There was no edge to the guitar sound, and that was because of the volume, plain and simple. This meant that when he hit his very own Beef pedals for the solos the guitar volume rose to ok, but it didn’t make that sudden leap from loud to very loud, which makes the solo’s so enjoyable and such a forceful proposition to the mind.
I’m not one of those people who walk out of a show gesticulating ecstatically while explaining that it “made my ears bleed”, but I do know that rock and roll has to hit you in the belly as well as in the pineal gland. Without that bit of volume a band like Wooden Shjips become a magnificent hint at a world, rather than the transportative monstrosity I know they can be (Primavera set reviewed here).
I dragged strangers along to this set, telling them that if they didn’t want to die of boredom they better get this kind of thing where they can. And they liked it, they did, but what would have happened if the sound hadn’t been lame? I wouldn’t have smoked dope, that’s what would have happened. It’s been a while, but when I got offered my rationale kicked in, got to do something…
And it helped. There was a water bottle on top of Dusty Jermier’s bass amp which was wobbling precariously, while the light of their projections shone through the sheet behind them. His playing is excellent, martial and rigorous. Erik ‘Ripley’ Johnson’s guitar playing was better than ever, even though I couldn’t hear it well enough. All in all it was a good time, but it should have been incredible. They certainly gave it from their end, including a cover of Neil Young’s Vampire Blues which, surprise surprise, sounded like a Wooden Shjips song. An apt choice for the weekend…
“Good times are comin',
I hear it everywhere I go
Good times are comin',
I hear it everywhere I go.
Good times are comin',
But they sure comin' slow.”