Saturday, April 2, 2016

Wolf Alice at Irving Plaza

Ellie Rowsell
Attending grade school in London, England, Ellie Rowsell played recorder. At age 12, she gravitated to playing chords on her father's acoustic guitar. She thought about being in a rock band, but most of the budding musicians in her all-girl school played classical piano or violin. In college, Rowsell enrolled in courses in writing, theater, and sound design, but change direction after her Practical Acting professor told her to pretend that she was an atom. She sang and played guitar publicly for the first time in a local songwriting competition, and learned that she preferred to be accompanied by a talented musician. Embarrassed to ask any of her friends, she logged on to an online guitar forum and discovered guitarist Joff Oddie, who had just moved to town and was eager to form a band. Taking its name from a short horror story in "The Bloody Chamber" by Angela Carter, Wolf Alice started performing in 2010 as an acoustic folk-pop duo at local open-mic nights. Crowds were not responding, so the duo went electric, turned up the volume, added a bassist and a drummer, and began to rock. Wolf Alice presently consists of Rowsell, Oddie, bassist Theo Ellis, and drummer Joel Amey. Wolf Alice's one album, My Love Is Cool, was released on June 22, 2015.

Headlining tonight at Irving Plaza, Wolf Alice was cheered by a front line of a dozen or more young female fans with glitter on their cheekbones and in their hair, a cult gesture that imitated Rowsell's earlier stage appearances. As with the Pretty Reckless and other alternative rock bands led by a young and attractive woman, these fans have found a safe role model -- a plain-singing woman backed by a raucous alternative-rock band. The 16-song set was comprised of songs from the band's album and earlier EPs. As the three male musicians hiked a buzzy, fuzzy grunge-styled  mountain of sound, Rowsell seemed to be the one to bring them back to their purpose, backing her whimsical fairy voice. For hard rockers, Rowsell's pop melodies may have been the weakest part of the performance, reigning in the band's explosive chemical reaction by tossing a bucket of cold water; for others, it was exactly this contrast that made Wolf Alice interesting.

Visit Wolf Alice at