Early afternoon is not a time when you’ll see Wolf Alice on stage at a UK festival anymore. They’ve already conquered that slot a hundred times over and earned themselves a place higher up the bill, one of the last on on main stages or headlining tents. Here in the US – like at New York’s Governors Ball today (June 1) – they’re back in that position of entertaining a crowd who’ve not long arrived and are just getting warmed up for the day ahead.
The difference between when Wolf Alice used to play these slot back home and now is that they’re old hands at this thing now. Almost non-stop touring for the last four years has given them the ability to make their performance look effortless, whether they’re thrashing and cursing through ‘Yuk Foo’ or delivering introspective tenderness on ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’. Even when things go wrong, like the issues Joff Oddie has with his guitar today, they seem unfazed where in the past the whole set might have fallen apart.
The Londoners aren’t the showiest of bands, leaving gimmicks aside to let the songs speak for themselves, but they do have some tricks up their collective sleeve to get the crowd amped up. Bassist Theo Ellis is their resident hype master, regularly gesturing to the audience to take things up a notch with an enthusiasm and passion that’s hard to not get swept along by. During a monstrous version of ‘Fluffy’, he strides up to the edge of the stage and starts stuttering and shaking his body like he’s just been on the receiving end of an almighty electric shock. There’s more spectacle, too, during the euphorically sweet ‘Lisbon’, when Joff flings his guitar high in the air and lands the perfect catch, all without missing a note.
Wolf Alice’s stage presence itself is enough to convince you they should be headlining festivals, but their songs make it even more baffling that they’ve so far only topped the bill at Margate’s By The Sea. Tracks from ‘Visions Of A Life’ have elevated their set since its release last September to new heights, letting them dole out joyful indie-pop bangers like ‘Space And Time’ one minute, and go full on doomy weirdos on their second album title track the next. They end things with ‘Giant Peach’, which marries those two worlds and finds frontwoman Ellie Rowsell kneeling at the precipice of the stage, howling her last lines into her mic. It’s an electrifying finale that encapsulates the power and excitement of Wolf Alice’s entire set in about 30 seconds. Hopefully, they’ll get to do the same in the big, premier slot at a major festival next year.