Band of Horses had just come through Detroit on a Tuesday and I missed them. I just couldn’t make it. I made a promise to myself that if a band comes through Detroit that I want to really see, I can’t let the opportunity slip. Lo and behold, 89X plays Jump Into the Fog on August 12, 2012 and I couldn’t believe it, I had never heard The Wombats on the radio in Detroit before. Then the DJ says The Wombats are coming to The Loft in Lansing on September 8. Twat’s that? Exsqueeze me? Did you say The Wombats are going to be in Lansing September 8?
I immediately called my friend Coy because he’s always down for a good show. Coy says he can come with me and things are looking good for a fun Saturday night. I tell him I’ll take care of tickets. Then after golf league and over beers, I ask Sean about Sept 8 as my backup because Sean’s always down too. Sean has something going on that night and can’t be my backup, but he tells me that The Loft is a great place to see a show.
Coy was being coy and I had a feeling he was going to pull the chute on me. It wasn’t long before I confirmed that Coy was indeed backing out of our plans. This is a dilemma because I’m realizing I’m going to have to do this solo or it ain’t gonna happen. My wife, bless her heart, said she would come with me and we could get a babysitter and all that shat, but I wasn’t going to drag her to a show that she wasn’t into. I would not have fun if she was there against her will and if we had to move a mountain to find a babysitter. But, because she’s the coolest wife ever, she had no problem watching the kids so I could make a solo run. It felt super weird to go solo, and I’ve never gone to a show solo before, but I had just promised myself I wasn’t going to miss a band that I really wanted to see. So what’s the big deal, hour drive there, watch a band, and be home by midnight-ish… it was on like donkey kong, I was going to Lansing to see The Wombats on a solo mission. Schweetness.
The Loft was an endearing little venue. Approaching The Loft on East Michigan Ave as the sun was setting was a visually pleasing little drive in from the freeway. The State Capitol building was backlit by the sun, due west from The Loft’s entrance, and was framed with a pretty amber and blue sky. Entering The Loft from the street, you immediately ascend a narrow 40 foot stairway which was the only entrance. I remember thinking that this place would be a real motherfucker if there was ever a fire. The ‘will call’ girl was at the top of the stairs. After checking in with her, you make your way through a short hallway where there are bathrooms and then proceed into the main room which is about 100ft by 50ft. There were brick walls with large iron framed pane glass windows all along the stage side of the rectangle room with hardwood floors. The ceiling was about 15 feet. Opposite the wall with the windows were two cavernous alcoves: one for serving drinks and playing billiards, and the other where they were selling tee shirts.
After Sean telling me about how great it is to see a show at The Loft, I had a feeling the shape, size and materials that made up the room like wood, brick, and glass were going to provide some sort of amazing acoustic and as it turns out, they did. The sound was phenomenal throughout the show. There was a one to two minute technical difficulty in the middle of Schumacher The Champagne which actually turned into a funny break in the action. I captured about 45 seconds of the snafu, but got my phone out late and I missed the funniest part. The guys handled it with good humor and grace. Other than that, the show went off pretty much without a hitch. If anything, the tech glitch gave the show a little ‘small venue’ character. Glitch aside, the sound was incredible. I talked to Dave, the sound guy, before the show and he must of gotten his job done right because everything sounded amazing in there. I wanted to talk his ear off, but I knew he had a job to do so I refrained as best I could. He managed to tell me that he’d been with the band since ought six and had been everywhere with them: New York City, Jimmy Kimmel, Tokyo. He didn’t mind me snapping a photo of the set list and even offered to give it to me after the show as a souvenir. There was a girl behind Dave to his left that I think was with the band as well. I never spoke with her. She looked all business. She had a flashlight that she used to part a thick crowd of people and walk right to the front of the stage like Moses parting the Red Sea. Maybe she was in charge of operating the stage lighting? Anyway, I think my dancing made her laugh once because I was letting go without a care and caught her wearing a big smile at one point during the show looking my way. She quickly looked away when I turned around and I knew she was scoping my lynx-like dance moves. Whatever.
Having a look at the set list was a rare nugget of inside information that was nice to have because I wanted to try to video capture some of the show and my battery was about hit. I would only be able to record a few songs and picked a couple that I know and like and was able to know when they were coming up. As it turns out, it’s a shame I couldn’t record every song, because they were all awesome top to bottom. Plus it was difficult to record because I don’t have a tripod and had to hold my phone up high in the air with one hand and my beer with the other. So every minute or two, the blood would let out of my phone arm and I’d have to hold my plastic beer cup with my teeth to alternate between my tired arm and my fresh arm. I gotta give props to the iPhone 4GS here though because with my old phone, my Arctic Monkeys footage in downtown Detroit a few weeks back just completely sucked ass. I even took it down. The 4GS did a great job with recording the show. It truly is an amazing little piece of hardware.
When The Wombats first took to the stage, they kicked everything off with Our Perfect Disease. Immediately things got off on the right foot. The singer, Matthew Murphy, sounded just like he does on MP3. Tord Øverland-Knudsen was very high energy. He reminded me of a cross between Flea and Angus Young. And, Dan Haggis brought some skilled percussion too, especially on Moving To New York and its intro; he has some speedy hands. This is a solid trio. You didn’t feel swindled by that sense of false advertising you often get from a studio only band versus the disparity of a shitty live performance. They rocked it right out of the gate. They sounded very true to what I was hoping. I was impressed with this Michigan State crowd too, they knew the music and I was glad they did. There were moments from start to finish where the crowd was in the pocket with the music. There were a couple of yahoos that didn’t really know the band and were just out for a good time, but it was cool to see such a high percentage of people who really knew the music. You might attribute some of that to smart management on behalf of the band to break the band into the US market with college venues like this. I truly believe it won’t be long before they’re playing increasingly bigger venues and the opportunities for a guy in the crowd to chat up the sound guy are on the wane.
I’m super thankful The Wombats made it to Michigan. It’s funny how the best shows are coincidentally at intimate venues with low ticket prices. I have a feeling the next time I see The Wombats, it will be at DTE with a higher ticket price and a lot more people, but I’m sure it will be another great show when they come back. As I said in my first post about The Wombats some years ago, I think they will find success with their music in the US market. They are a talented trio.
Spread the word, The Wombats are the best thing out of Liverpool since Sir Paul.
Some pictures from the night…