Wolf Parade at the Fillmore Miami Beach, November 10

With Ogre You Asshole

The Fillmore Miami Beach

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Better than: A totally empty auditorium.

Too bad Montreal indie rockers Wolf Parade don't travel with a pack of thousands. The Fillmore could have used some filling last night.

The crowd was only a cluster. But like singer and keyboard player Spencer Krug said: "Obviously, there's not a shit-ton of us in here. But there's enough of us that we can still have a good time."

Going into the show, I knew nothing at all about the opening band. But here's an early impression via the Crossfade Twitter feed: "Turns out, Ogre You Asshole is four very polite Japanese fellows who play rather intricate indie pop." And yeah, the first few minutes of Ogre's set tended toward powerful, pristine stuff.

But somewhere during the second song, things twisted into darker territory. The pretty pop started to drift in noisier and more dissonant directions. And as the songs clicked past, these skinny, polite guys took on a wilder aspect. The drummer pounded away with closed eyes and an open mouth. The singer crowded the mic and sweated through his shirt. And the guitarist's ponytail came half undone.

With the second-to-last song, though, Ogre circled back to that bright, early vibe before slipping into a speedy dance punk cut, soaring and slashing to a final furious and technical freakout.

At 9:47 p.m., Wolf Parade strode out, snatched up its instruments, and scoped out the crowd. Krug sat center-stage on a stool behind twin keyboards and some kind of small musical toy. To his left, the bass player rocked back-and-forth on his heels. Off in the shadows, the drummer slumped behind his kit. And over to the right, guitarist and singer Dan Boeckner vibrated with a certain kind of hyper wiriness.

Once set, the band cut straight into "You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son," the lead track off its 2005 debut full-length Apologies to the Queen Mary. And right away, it was clear that this wasn't gonna be a standard show. For one thing, Wolf Parade was giving off bristling, anarchic energy spiked with howling menace. For another, there just weren't enough bodies to absorb all that noise and echoes were bouncing all around the place. And for yet another, the authorities were acting weirdly.

Almost as soon as Wolf Parade started, someone lit a spliff. (Pretty standard concert behavior, right?) Usually, you can smoke up at a show and successfully hide. But since the crowd was so fucking thin, security had no problem sniffing out the offenders. Basically, some kid and a couple of his friends were all alone in the open with giant smoke rings hanging over their heads. So the guard shoved his pocket flashlight into the center of the group. And just as those three guilty potheads were about to slink away or start begging for mercy, the cop simply asked that they extinguish their herb. No ejections. No threats. Nothing.

From there, people downed third and fourth beers. Even with the emptiness, the edge of the stage got clogged. And a few diehards started dancing (or stumbling around in a vaguely rhythmic way?) while the band alternated from Krug- to Boeckner- to Krug- penned songs: "Language City," "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain," "Palm Road."

At this point, everyone -- including the band -- could feel that shit was getting loose. During a short pause between songs, Boeckner joked: "I went swimming today and I stepped on something sharp. Is there anything sharp that lives in the ocean that isn't, say, a hypodermic needle?" The dumb responses came, and he smiled and shook his shaggy, black hair.

Unleashing themselves a bit, Krug and the rest of the crew reached back again to Apologies to the Queen Mary for a raw, rowdy version of "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts" before dashing ahead to this year's Expo 86 with "Ghost Pressure" and "Oh You, Old Thing." And next, "This Heart's on Fire" and "I'll Believe in Anything

After that mini-eruption, the closer was meant to be "Kissing the Beehive," an indie epic that wound through ten minutes of midtempo brooding, quick downturns, throbbing buildups, and densely orchestrated breakdowns. The band put its gear away. The lights went out. And the stage smoke cleared. But this small group of rabid fans wouldn't stop howling and howling and howling. So Wolf Parade returned for a one-song encore.

"Man, we weren't planning on coming out," Krug admitted. "Here's an old one."

And Krug gave these people what some of them had been begging for all night -- a "Fancy Claps" finale.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I'm half Canadian. And I've also got a shaggy, wolfish beard.

The Crowd: Lonely chillwave chicks, skinny-suited 30-something hipsters, and lots of nerdy beards.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Oh, shit. Here comes a pig," said the pothead. "Put it out. Put it out."

Wolf Parade's Setlist:

-"You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son"

-"Language City"

-"Cloud Shadow on the Mountain"

-"Palm Road"

-"Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts"

-"Ghost Pressure"

-"What Did My Lover Say"

-"Fine Young Cannibals"

-"Oh You, Old Thing"

-"This Heart's on Fire"

-"I'll Believe in Anything"

-"Kissing the Beehive"


-"Fancy Claps"

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S. Pajot