It was a typically great, rampaging rock show by the Wrens last night (June 24) at the Belmont Art and Music Festival. Lots of songs from Meadowlands, of course. I sure hope they do a new album soon, but there’s something strangely appealing about seeing them still touring years later on the strength of the same record, which has grown in my estimation to become one of my favorites of recent years.
And the Wrens are surely up there on the list of the best live rock bands going right now. I love the way the songs sound almost deconstructed in concert – starting off with little looping guitar notes – and then build up into huge anthems, the crowd going nuts and singing along. I didn’t keep track of the set list, or the order of songs that were played. They started with just Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan onstage, with the other guys joining them mid-song. Right away, Kevin Whelan was pulling people out of the audience to help out – a couple of people to play a keyboard part. Later, they did the standard bit with a crowd of audience members banging drum sticks onstage. As usual, Kevin acted like a lunatic, tossing around his bass with abandon (which is practically encased in duct tape, with a postcard of the Virgin Mary under the spot where your fingers pluck the strings). He exhorted the crowd to clap along with an almost angry insistence on his face. When this guy wants you to clap, don’t say no. Bissell did a little bit of leaping, too, and the two of them were pretty much drenched in sweat by the end of the set.
They started maybe 10 minutes before the posted starting time of 9 p.m., played a fairly short set, then came back for an encore of course. It’s pretty unusual for a band to play two encores at a street fest, but the crowd wouldn’t stop clapping even when the spotlights went off and the canned music came on, so the Wrens came back for another song. And then it looked like there might be a third encore, until they started taking the drum kit apart.
I’ll have more photos and blog entries later about other bands at the BAM fest, plus some other recent concerts and such stuff that I need to catch up on…