Live Review: Woodlock + Ed Wells + Direwolf – Oxford Art Factory Gallery Bar, Sydney (05.04.14)


I like to justify my inherent pessimism with the surprisingly practical statement that when one is a pessimist, one is often pleasantly surprised by the outcomes of situations one is pessimistic about. Saturday night saw the epitome of one of those situations. After cynically thinking that the door charge would be exorbitant for a student of my means, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the sign joyfully proclaiming a $2 entry fee.

My next dire expectation was also shattered when the opening act proved to be somewhat of a gem. Ed Wells is a moderately husky voiced piano man par excellence. “Guringai” opened the set with its fast arpeggiated pianoforte and a voice that would melt butter. To please the crowd’s ears with something everybody knew, Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game” followed in second place before easing back into the originals.

When it comes to originals, it seems the best ones are always the songs that the artist feels most passionate about. In this sense, “When We Were Young” took the cake. Wells briefly explained that the song chronicles he and his brother’s youth, hence the title. There appeared to be a tremendous amount of passion in the artist’s delivery of the piece and an occasional flash in his eyes that clearly saw him transported back to that time. Very touching, indeed.

I’m not sure what the final piece was called, but I do know that it did do one of the things I love to see artists do. That is, cheekily inserting the lyrics and melody of a popular tune into the mix, thereby commenting on the fact that no music is truly original. Yes, I’m saying this is a good thing just in case somebody wants to deliberately misinterpret me.

What followed next can only be described as a lull. Despite Direwolf’s competent guitar playing and decent vocals, the experience was largely forgettable. There’s something that’s simply not right about scheduling a solo guitarist/singer to perform after what is essentially a full band. Sure, Wells didn’t have a traditional band and only featured an additional guitarist, percussionist, and a backing vocalist, the effect was fulsome. Putting Direwolf on after that successfully killed the vibe.

I wasn’t impressed, but to be fair, I have since listened to his material in its own right and it’s not at all bad. Perhaps combine Jordie Lane’s looks and insert a very toned down version of Steve Smyth into the aural channels and you’re getting close in the aesthetic sense. Well, anyway, he does have more likes on spacebook so perhaps that’s why the playing order was so poorly chosen. Politics equals injustice!

Eventually, Melbourne’s Woodlock redeemed the night by hitting the crowd with a set of upbeat Folk Pop. Drummer Bowen Purcell stands at his kit with only a tinge pretence akin to Moe Tucker from the Velvet Underground. The Walters brothers, who head the band, seem to have a natural dynamic that is almost endearing, but not in a sappy sense. The vocal harmonies appear mostly effortless. Although they are in essence a Folk band, there seems to be an element of the New Wave.

Early into their set, they knocked out the popular “Lemons” which saw some appreciative looks from the audience. “Blood Brothers” likewise saw some of the audience nodding in approval, which is a testament for the efficacy the song’s distribution.

I slightly cringed when “The Shire”, with its hobbit related theme was introduced, but the song proved oddly palatable though I still despair at what may happen if the copyright people got their hands on this one. The main melody, played on what appears to be a Nguru (a traditional Maori flute), is practically identical to a theme from the Lord of the Rings movies. Hey, why not, man?