The Mess Hall
Orlando, Fl • Sept. 15, 2006
Tight jeans, thin ratty t-shirts, afros, and even a couple of headbands are spotted. The late ’70s/early ’80s Dogtown Boys look is in full swing at the Wolfmother show. The annual surf/skate expo is going on the same weekend and it looks like those who didn’t head downtown to catch the Volcom-sponsored Valient Thorr show are here getting their classic rock fill from the Australian trio.
Fellow boys from down under, The Mess Hall open the show and it’s pretty safe to say that no one knew who the hell they were. It’s also safe to say that minutes into their 45-minute set they have won over virtually every face in the room. The pair of Jed Kurzel (vocals, guitar) and Cec Condon (drums) have a very White Stripes-ian vibe, but in reverse. The drums are the dominant force, driving Kurzel’s guitar and wailing vocals forward. Song after infectious song, the duo barely stop to catch a breath in between sudden bursts of Garage/Blues Rock prowess.
“We hardly ever do this next song, but… here goes,” Kurzel announces before taking a huge risk in covering Nirvana’s “Breed.” I recently criticized a different band for covering the Pixies, stating that when a mediocre band covers a brilliant one it works against them- accentuating their flaws. On the other hand, when a band has already got a crowd in the palm of their hands and tosses in an unexpected familiar tune altered just enough to make it their own, it can be the final push that elevates the band’s performance from great to tremendous.
Immediately following the new band that I love is Wolfmother. Stepping into a dimly lit, empty canvas of a stage (not even a backdrop for the unassuming band who came just to rock) are the three guys who are responsible for packing the House of Blues (I believe it sold out shortly after door time). Often criticized for wearing their obvious influences (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple) on their skinny sleeves, Wolfmother feel not like a copy of copy but a tribute to an era that has passed. From opening song “Dimension,” the vocals of Andrew Stockdale are reminiscent of Robert Plant and his character-defining afro is a wonderful leftover from 1975, but the fire illuminated from he and bassist Chris Ross as they fly all over the stage is pure 2006.
In the moment every note of the way. The band’s generous- and audience appreciated- 90 minute set has the feel of a multi-layered band whose promising musical evolution will take them out of the harsh eye of judgement and into the smooth pavement of longevity.
Australia lost one of its national treasures (Steve Irwin) recently, but they’ve got a pair of bands ready to carry the torch of success from down under to the rest of the world.