December gets pretty packed over at Wicked Lil Pixie. Not to mention that I am usually elbows and assholes into an edit between holiday event breaks. But that doesn’t sate the need I have been feeling to do reviews. So, why not review the last concert I went to?
There could be one reason, which I will offer up in the spirit of full transparency. I’m a fan of Wayland. I have seen then more in the last year and a half than any other concerts put together during my “concert hiatus.” Still I feel my familiarity with their show gives me a different perspective on the concert this past weekend.
To give you an idea on just how much I wanted to make the show, I will lay it out for you. It was my 22nd anniversary. My wife had asked if I would mind her going to her mother’s holiday party with her, though (spoiler alert) I think she was going to regret missing this show. It was colder than sin and half as fun in Wisconsin that night, and on the road to getting worse. It was about a 40 minute drive to the place. And finally I was on my cane from the unfortunate fight I had with a patch of ice that shifted my knee out of joint. So hobbled, cold, dressed in my Band Camp shirt and Reno hoodie, and I went to the bar.
The opening acts were all good. I may do reviews on them later, especially Left of Reason. They have a weird karmic link with Wayland for me that isn’t that unusual, but I have little belief in coincidence. Sufficed to say, they were all solid and fit into the styles of music for the night. To large of a divergence from the style of the headliner is jarring for me. This wasn’t.
During the show, I would check Twitter from time to time between songs. Watch for my wife texting me that she was heading home from Milwaukee. And of course, to see that Wayland was making an appearance at Toys for Tatas at Silk Exotic. Easily the same 40 or so minutes away from the club as I had driven. That let a schedule looking somewhat like this:
7:00 National Anthem at the Janesville Jets game
??? Appearance at Silk Exotic for Toys for Tatas in Madison
11:00 take the stage at the Back Bar (back in Janesville)
And y’all thought I was insane going from 5am until after the concert was over. These guys were swinging for the fences just in the scheduling. And totally nailed it.
When they hit the stage, the show took on a different tone from the first three bands. Even more surprising, was that it took on a different tone for me than previous Wayland shows. Everyone was out and in place other than Mitch, the lead singer. Once they dropped into the song, he came out on stage, leading with his voice. Even more so than his singing, there was the power and presence. As if building up the energy f0r the show at the last minute, he paces. Quickly. It’s like seeing a lion or a tiger at the zoo stalking along the glass. A contained energy that seems to be on the edge of breaking out.
Now this isn’t to say that he was bouncing around like a teen with ADD jacked up on Monster energy drinks. Because during the ballad style songs he would level, being still and letting the lyrics and music do the heavy lifting. Like when he was solo on the stage singing a new song they recorded called “Follow.” Though someone in the audience called it “the stalker song.” Mitch replied with, “If she turns around, it’s not stalking.” And with a smile on his face said, “Yeah, it’s the stalker song.”
Keep in mind that whole exchange wasn’t a heckler. It was more of an in-joke. Something for those fans who have seen them live. A lot. On stage or over YouTube is the only way to have heard Follow as it hasn’t released yet. Which is how they do it. I saw that in the changes to the song Reno from the first time they played it on WJJO at a Sound Lounge from when it released. Writing it on the road means revising it on the road. Perfecting it. Though I can’t really see much that could be changed with Follow. It is a strong song with a compelling story.
Keep in mind that many of the folks who are coming to the shows have seen them before. They’ve bought the CDs. Many of them could sing the songs from memory. I have several in my writing playlists, so I know I can. The band knows this. Reno is currently the #1 requested song on WJJO, the rock station in Madison, WI. During their performance of it, Mitch was kind of taunting the audience to sing it. He held out the mic towards the audience at the pivotal line of “one road out of Reno.” Several times. It was more of a party with friends than a concert from your favorite band.
Though when the section came during several songs for a guitar solo, it was clearly a rock and roll show. Tyler and Dean had the solid beat and baseline going. The foundation with which a really great song can be built on. That allowed Phill, the lead guitarist to pull out the stops on a devastating guitar solo. Halfway through what was his best playing of the night it struck me how much it was like opening the doors to the stable on a wild horse and saying, “go play.” Watching the notes run and jump their way through the song. When Mitch pointed him out at the pause in the music before the end of the song, it seemed like even he was taken aback by it.
There are two final notes I have from the show. Two things that really set this band above others like them. Aside from the writing, the stage presence, the work ethic and their talent, there is more that sets them at the head of the pack. With all of their gifts, it could all fall apart if it wasn’t for one simple fact – they perform like they are a team. If something if off on the sound, even during a song, one of the others will catch the eyes of the sound tech and get them to adjust without breaking the song.
But there is something else that has less to do with their concerts, their music, and more to do with their fans. Much like other entertainers in other genres have done, they engage their fans. They stick around after the show to take pictures, have drinks, help the fans get the shirts and CDs they want. Autograph things for them. Hell, I’ve seen one fan with tattoos of their autographs signed on her shoulders. Around the Wayland logo Tyler had drawn on for her. And on December 7th, their table was packed at the end of the night.
I had picked up my shirt right after the last song. It’s my way of tracking how many shows I’ve been at. In addition to my way of supporting the band and keeping them on the road. I honestly feel that this crazy tour schedule (dubbed Always on Tour) of theirs is working for them. It was a really good show before. This week was a killer show. A face melter. I figure there were as many people packed in that bar as there was when they played Redneck Reunion Fest there a couple months back.
I considered sticking around to say hello to them if nothing else. My Warrior Wall at home already has a signed photo and signed guitar from them. (Got the guitar from the Band Camp VIP pass.) So I left it up to those I went with. I just knew that if I made my way up and into the people around the table, someone would knock my cane out from under me. And after four hours on my feet, I didn’t know how well that would have went. I did get a bit of a grin heading out to warm up the truck for the others watching the fans who were up there and the band interacting.
For me that is what makes a concert more of a show. There are good concerts, but then there are shows. And this was a show. In all the right ways. Totally five star rating, well worth seeing live. And they are really best seen live.
*Full photo accreditation: Nico Zammuto is one of Wayland’s biggest fans. And she was up at the front of the stage, taking pictures. Doing everything I cannot. She graciously agreed to allow me the use of her photos (which I found due to the band posting one of them). You can find all of her photos on her Facebook page. Including some of the other bands. Especially the holiday surprise Left of Reason brought out for their last song.