Six years ago Wolf Alice played to a handful of people in the East Oxford Community Centre, as part of central Oxford multi-venue festival Gathering. It was an energetic, short and slick set from the then up-and-coming band, filled with songs from their ‘Blush’ EP (which had been released a few weeks before), and it was evident then that there was something a bit special about the Londoners.
Now, six years on, the band are playing considerably larger venues to far more than a handful of people. In fact, they’re now headlining festivals, including Oxfordshire’s Truck Festival, which is located ten miles south from the site of the now long-gone Gathering festival.
Here’s what went down during their Friday headline show at Truck Festival.
Storming on stage Wolf Alice open with volcanic versions of ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ and ‘You’re A Germ’. Barely pausing for breath, Ellie Rowsell briefly greats the crowd: “Hello, how we all doing Truck? This is exciting! We’re headlining a motherfucking festival!” This excitement is evident throughout the set, with the band continuing to amp up the energy and seeming genuinely humbled to have the top billing of the evening.
“Now’s the time to pretend you’re at a school disco and you’re going to tell your crush you like them, before it’s too late” Rowsell instructs the audience before the familiar, woozy introduction of ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ kicks in. Accompanied by sparkling pink lights, the gushing euphoria of the festival-favourite is a glorious respite to the blistering riffs and pit-inducing tunes of the rest of the set.
Bassist Theo Ellis acts as the band’s hype man, peppering the set with roars of appreciation and words of encouragement to the crowd. “Fucking c'mon! You lot are a bunch of legends, thank you so much for this moment,” he tells the crowd before a stonking, slinky version of ‘Beautifully Unconventional’. “Let’s fucking ‘av it” he shouts later before ‘Fluffy’. The crowd are only too happy to oblige.
During their 90-minute set the band play a career spanning show, alternating between early tunes like ‘Fluffy’ and ‘Blush’, all the way through to familiar cuts from their Mercury-winning second album 'Visions of a Life'. The entire thing feels slick, yet not over-rehearsed. They’ve been touring 'Visions of a Life' for several years now, and although Rowsell told NME in the past that they were looking forward to “casually starting writing again”, no new tunes were showcased at Truck this evening. No matter though, as they’ve now become well practised in making their catalogue of tunes sound as exciting and fresh as they did when they were first released.
“It’s a huge honour for us to headline this festival, we were really nervous. And you guys have been so lovely, and so kind, and fun…and it’s raining, and I don’t even mind,” Rowsell tells the crowd before their final song. Despite this statement, the nerves haven’t shown. As Rowsell clambers into the crowd for the finale of ‘Giant Peach’ and confetti rains down on the army of fans enjoying the set, Wolf Alice leave the audience with no doubt that the headline spot is where they’re meant to be on the line-up.
Wolf Alice played:
Moaning Lisa Smile
You’re A Germ
90 Mile Beach
Don’t Delete the Kisses
Space & Time
St. Purple and Green
Visions of a Life