Written by Brandon Biallas
LA psych-rockers Wand just wrapped up their US tour for their 2019 release Laughing Matter, an album described by their Drag City label as "a record about love in a time of terror.” Below are impressions from their June 17th show at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix.
Back in the 60’s when psychedelic rock first came on the scene, no one could have predicted whether it would outlast the decade and transcend its acid-laced roots. Bands like Los Angeles-based Wand prove that not only has the genre remained strong but it’s evolved into something that’s only gathered more appeal with time.
Beginning the evening, local artist Max Knouse treated fans to his unique brand of ethereal-folk music. Reverberated guitars wafted through the air like clouds towards the audience as his smooth, dreamy vocals were quick to follow. His songs had a dreamy quality to it that’s incredibly soothing to listen to and was very warmly received by the crowd as they remained completely transfixed during the set. James’ World followed with an unbelievable dark and poetic brand of art rock. Spoken word lyrics, a beautifully dissonant trio of guitars, and deceptively complex rhythms proved to be an unexpected but not at all unwelcome addition to the night’s musical roster.
Wand took the stage with little warning but fans were already prepared for what was to come. An incredible cacophony of noise blasted from the speakers as Cory Hansen’s guitar and Sofia Arreguin’s fuzzy synths came pouring into fan’s ears with the introduction to their set. Their sound commands your attention without being the least bit overwhelming; seemingly pushing your limits while somehow making you feel comfortable with it. It’s difficult to imagine a band this loud simultaneously being so pleasant to listen to but Wand pulls it off like few could ever dream of.
As the band played familiar fan-favorites like “Scarecrow” and “Plum”, there was a palpable sense of freshness to the music as it slowly dawned on those who had never seen the band before; this band rarely performs their songs the same way twice. Extended improvised noise outros and mesmerizing guitar drone intros were only a few of the tricks the band had up their sleeves. The songs are played with a rare precision that sounds just like, if not better, than the studio recordings themselves but the spontaneous elements to their live performance is where the band truly shines. Wand clearly have fun pushing the perceived boundaries of their music and that’s one of the biggest appeals to seeing them live.
Other notable highlights of the night included bass player Lee Landley who took the possibilities of the instrument to creatively new heights. Often times leading the band with his melodically driving bass lines, it was ear candy in the sweetest sense of the words. Going along with some insanely tight drumming, courtesy of Evan Burrows, people couldn’t help themselves as their legs took full control, whisking them off to the dance floor.
Wand is a highly underrated, genre-bending rock band that is an absolute must-see should one of their tour dates pop up in your town. Excellent stage chemistry and strong musicianship are in high supply at their shows; three of many reasons to look into what they’re all about. Should you get the chance to see them live and potentially dose you with massive amounts of beautifully psychedelic madness, it would be wise not to miss out.
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