London’s WOLF ALICE, aka lead singer Ellie Rowsell, Joel Amey, Joff Oddie and Theo Ellis, have been gathering some hype around the UK. Having sailed through some smaller venues earlier in the year, they’re now banging out tracks on festival stages. Based on personal recommendations, I’m here at Leeds Met to check out what the whole hoo-ha is about.
On arrival, I’m immediately sucked into studentsville – pool tables, bars and music venue all rolled into one. Inside the half-full venue, a good vibe is building as people (mostly women, which makes a nice change) hover on the front barrier to get a solid glimpse of Ellie Rowsell and crew. There’s a sense that this band have already garnered loyal fans in this neck of the woods. It’s a bit of a shame that more of the barflies don’t come check them out, but people are making the most of the rare steamy weather and the bank holiday party mood is in full flow.
Pounding drum sounds and strong vocals straight off the bat, we’re nicely warming up. With escaped strands of partially tied-back hair swinging in front of her face, Ellie eases out her husky breathy voice, almost teasing the crowd, peaking through her fringe at the front rows with piercing eyes. She’s intensely eying up the photography pack in the pit, and looks nervous behind her mic through the first couple songs. There’s minimal chit chat, but eventually she greets the crowds with a “What’s up, Leeds?!” which they appreciate, one member sarcastically responding with “She speaks!” but it’s all in the spirit of helping the lead singer to relax onstage.
The band are finally beginning to look at ease, and as the songs get punkier, Ellie steps out from behind the comfort mic stand to rock out with her band. She’s back at the mic, and it’s quite endearing as she throws some smiles and winks to the front row, keeping one beady eye on the photographers – she’s beginning to ooze some cocky rock chick vibes which definitely suit her. At one point, Ellie’s guitar strap detaches itself, to a little “whoop” from the audience which she playfully joins in with. She’s settling in.
I get the feeling that the band are in awe of the stage size, which is slightly distracting for the crowds but again endearing. They’re a nervous bunch, and this is testament to the speed with which they’re climbing up the buzz band ladder, seemingly to their surprise.
The set is varied as the sounds flow from grunge-rock to riot grrrl to soft alt rock. This is a band definitely in their early stages, but the incredible potential with Ellie’s tough vocals and natural charisma, as well as the band’s great melodies and evolving confidence, is evident for all to see. The more that Ellie takes the bull by the horns, the more powerful the band’s energy will be onstage – all she needs is a little red flag and a bigger shove of support from her band to unleash her pent-up emotion, and these guys will be smashing up stages all over the place.