Review: Wolf Parade @ Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR

Knowing that I would be able to catch all of Wolf Parade allowed me to forget the time fiasco that was totally my fault. The interior of the Crystal Ballroom also helped to keep my senses busy. Giant frescoes lined the walls and as I had hoped, there was a glowing crystal chandelier hanging above the dance floor that was reminiscent of Beauty & The Beast.

I could have wasted time by gawking at the art and asking residents where the best hiking trails are, but the slow & steady rhythms of “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son” started to belt out. I thought it weird that the Montreal outfit decided to open up with one of their slowest numbers, but it was as if they were trying to get it out of the way so they could pick up the pace in increments. Guitarist Dan Boeckner announced that his in-laws are in town from Toronto and that seemed to mean, “Let’s play the new stuff for mom & pops”.  From their latest release, At Mount Zoomer, the band launched into “Soldier’s Grin”, “Bang Your Drum”, and “Call It A Ritual”.  One fancy free lass enjoyed the material so much  she started to bang her shiny red pumps together in applause.

Personally, I favor the dance friendly sounds of Apologies to the Queen Mary, so I went buck wild when I heard the opening moog lines of “This Heart’s On Fire” and “Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts”. The Crystal Ballroom’s ageing hardwood plank floor seemed to be rumbling underneath the joyous hops and swerving hips. Spencer Krug was slathered in so much sweat that I feared he would electrocute himself as droplets poured onto his keyboards.

Apparently certain audience members were equally riled up, and their true nature was unleashed in a different way. A group of hipster nobodies with angled haircuts kept on colliding their way to the front with force. It wouldn’t have been so bad if they kept on and disappeared into the sweaty sea of bodies, but some actually had the nerve to push me out of the way only to stand directly in my view.

One frisky teen decided it would be a good idea to spin his body round and round like a top, careening into anyone within arm’s length. Another tough guy (who vaguely resembled Iceman from “Top Gun”…if he had freckles) was heading away from the stage when he clearly shoved a guy out of his path. When the innocent bystander confronted the punk, the freckly jerk started to mouth the words, “You wanna fight? Come on…let’s do it”. He even had the audacity to do all this with a yellow headband on. The sensible person did the right thing by laughing it off and putting his arm around his girl to enjoy the rest of the show. Of course, after it was all over, I had to tap him on his shoulder to chime in, “I had your back the entire time man.” Peaceful Portland? It seemed more like Pushy Portland .

Even with all these shenanigans going on, every single body was still in awe of the raw presence of Wolf Parade. Slightly muffled vocals (which I blame on the sound guy) didn’t stop fans from chanting lyrics and dancing their pants off. The band seemed to be ever so gracious, continuously thanking the crowd and calling us “sweet”. They returned for a three song encore that included the fierce “Fancy Claps” and a lengthy version of “Dinner Bells”. Afterwards, the ballroom lights switched on and I finally started to feel the exhaustion setting in. I walked to the back to pour free water from a construction orange cooler, checked the group off of my list of “must-see acts”, and called it a night.

-Philip

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