Californian rockers arrive late due to a passport mishap but enrapture the audience
Dom Gourlay
20:25 22nd August 2019

It’s been an eventful ride so far for Californian experimental rockers Wand. Having only formed six years ago, they’ve been a prolific force ever since, churning out five albums in quick succession. The most recent of those – Laughing Matter – came out in April of this year and has already been heralded in some quarters as the band’s finest collection to date.

While that debate will rage on between the band’s ever growing fanbase, most notably dependent upon the juncture at which said suitors joined the Wand appreciation society. One thing is for certain, Laughing Matter undoubtedly represents their most accessible and at times, radio friendly excursion thus far. Preferring traditional song structures over blistering sonics while still embarking on the occasional freeform ride that signified its predecessors, most notably 2015’s Golem, Wand’s second record and a gateway for many outside of the LA scene that spawned them.

Currently in the middle of the European leg of a world tour that will eventually see them open up for returning sonic experimentalists Stereolab in the States. Tonight marks only their second UK show yet despite being on British soil for little over 48 hours, Wand have already experienced the kind of setback that would see lesser bands just pack up and go home. Having played in revitalized seaside town Margate the previous evening, it turned out an unnamed member of the band misplaced their passport causing the band a trip to London to retrieve it. Unfortunately, this also caused the band to arrive at the Bodega after the doors were opened, meaning the scheduled soundcheck was missed then hurriedly attempted after the support band (Gang) had finished their performance. Thereby eventually curtailing the headliners’ own set by a good 30 minutes or more which slightly dampened the mood somewhat.

Nevertheless, when Wand did finally get going, they delivered in small doses, enrapturing the patient audience with their incendiary brand of blues-tinged psychedelia and acid folk rock. Playing a set comprised mostly of material off their latest record, the five-piece look comfortable throughout despite the stressful situation in which they find themselves. Singer and guitarist Cory Hanson is a master of improvisation and while some of his between song banter leaves a bit to be desired – drinking water from a can is fine, honest! – he makes up for it with consummate ease, turning opulent melodramas ‘Wonder’ and ‘Rio Grande’ into dramatic, heavily orchestrated overtures.

Aided and abetted by his four equally musically dexterous cohorts; drummer Evan Burrows in particular proving himself to be a hybrid of man and machine behind his kit; Wand show themselves to be at their most diligent if left to their own devices within their own timescales. Sadly, the 10pm curfew imposed by the venue due to UK licensing restrictions means their set is cut short by several numbers, and while Hanson and co. look understandably deflated, it's clear they’re a band on a mission with real purpose and intent.

Hopefully their next visit to the city will be less fraught.

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Photo: Shaun Gordon