Two out of every three comments after the review weren’t even about the Pixies, but about the opening act, Reignwolf.
Eight months of anticipation. Eight months of build-up after reading the first echoes about this mysterious Canuck from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the comment section of a Pixies review. The Pixies were headlining a show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City in September 2013. No one probably thought much about the opening act. Here was this quiet, unassuming, pleasant Canadian who came on stage and proceeded to shock, excite, and mystify a room full of jaded New Yorkers. They came for one act (the aforementioned Pixies) but he converted them into true believers. Two out of every three comments after the review weren’t even about the Pixies, but about the opening act, Reignwolf. Naturally, I was intrigued and began investigating. There was no album released; a downloadable single or two, and after watching a lot of YouTube videos, I was enraptured.
“Yes it is…That sure is Reignwolf and he’s The Man! He’s going to tear the roof off this place and I can’t wait!”
Fast-forward eight months to a Thursday night in May. At The Rave in Milwaukee, WI, as I picked up my tickets at “Will Call”, I turned to one of my companions and pointed out Reignwolf on the video advertising screen. To my right a stranger interjected, “Yes it is…That sure is Reignwolf and he’s The Man! He’s going to tear the roof off this place and I can’t wait!” I, on the other hand, had reservations. I had gone to previous rock shows with heightened expectations only to be brutally disappointed. Bringing along two other companions, one a drummer and the other a man who had influenced my musical tastes from a young age. I had hyped the show and hoped that I was not over-reaching. Entering the bar area, with a crowd of no more than 140 people, the older of my two companions turned a jaundiced eye to me. “Really, this is the crowd of this amazing performer?” Mind you, it was a Thursday night, but even I expected more.
They were tight, in the pocket, and vocally and sonically played great.
The opener was a band from Georgia called Crass Mammoth. They more than adequately warmed up the crowd, with many an attendee commenting that they had never heard of them. They were tight, in the pocket, and vocally and sonically played great. As they broke down their gear, a few people gathered around to complement them on the set they had just completed. Some said they had become fans and would look for them on any number of social media platforms so they could follow them later. I had already known of them, looked forward to seeing them play, and was perhaps the only previous fan in the crowd. I came back to my guys, got a beer, and we waited for the main act.
… Then, as if a cosmic electric switch was flipped, it was on!
Lights down, smoke wafting and swirling across the stage and then it was on. Side men STITCX (pronounced ‘Stitch’) and drummer Joseph Braley took to their respective corners and then out comes the man himself: Jordan Cook, AKA Reignwolf. After an initial guitar-and-instrument open, they went straight to the song “Come On, Come On.” This was one of the songs in particular that I was hoping to hear. The song was not bad, a bit subdued, but not what I had hoped. Reignwolf had actually canceled their previous gig three days earlier in Kansas City due to illness. Was the Wolf still not fully recuperated? Then, as if a cosmic electric switch was flipped, it was on! For the next two hours Reignwolf and bandmates proceeded to grind, jolt, distort, and howl their way through a set with a manic energy that transfixed, energized, and mystified all of us. His performance was about pure pleasure, passion, and his emotion for playing, and that’s what you get from his show.
Reignwolf’s goal isn’t to just play… it is about interweaving a connection with the crowd.
Reignwolf just loves to play…period. He feeds off the crowd and, in turn, the crowd feeds off him. However, no matter how great the songs are individually, it really is about the show. At one point he is standing on top of a solitary bass drum set up in the front of the stage extracting every note he can squeeze out of the guitar. Next, the band steps aside into the wings to allow The Wolf to sit at the drum kit playing the drums with one hand and guitar with the other. Ultimately, he comes down to the front of the stage, almost apologizing, and asks the crowd permission to come down to their level and play among them. Reignwolf’s goal isn’t to just play to and entertain the crowd; it is about interweaving a connection with the crowd. This is a rare skill lacking in many of today’s artists.
I may have been seeing a bit of history.
After the final scorching encore of “Lonely Sunday” I turned to my companions and said, “Well, what do you think?” Both just looked back and smiled with a nod of their heads, which was
enough for me. To be totally honest, I never thought going into this night that I’d ever say this; I may have been seeing a bit of history. Why, you may ask? That is because I just saw the best small venue show that I’d ever seen. There will be many in the future, perhaps on a much bigger stage and venue. I may eventually have the honor of saying to someone in the future that I saw Reignwolf up close and personal. Shook his hand, spoke with him directly, and took a picture with him. I wonder if this is what it was like to see Hendrix, The Ramones, or Nirvana before they made it into the contemporary American Lexicon.
Special kilScene Correspondent
• Hunter MacLeod