Tara Wepking's Posts


Tara Wepking's Photo I'm a volunteer writer for KDHX in St. Louis.

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Concert review: Burrowss and the Ghost Wolves turn up at the Heavy Anchor, Friday, August 3

Ghost Wolves at the Heavy Anchor. Photo by Tara Wepking.

The spirit of the ’60s was alive and well on Friday night, with both the Ghost Wolves and Burrowss bringing their own takes on garage rock to the Heavy Anchor.

While both bands were left to the thankless task of playing to a thinly-packed crowd, the sheer noise of the night was enough to fill up the empty space of the room — amplifiers cranked to what I can only assume was 11 and a P.A. pushed to the point of crackling somehow only served to make the tunes that night feel more authentic and even electric, with ears ringing loud between songs and sets.

The Ghost Wolves, from Austin, Texas, took the stage first with their amps covered in fuzzy white fur and a real live ghost wolf named Winter hanging around outside the bar. The duo, comprised of Carley “Carazy” Wolf on guitar and Johnny “Hammer” Wolf on drums, plays with no set list and practically begs for White Stripes comparison. But to write them off so easily would be a disservice to the band’s sound — a joyous celebration of reckless rock starting somewhere down around the Mississippi blues and moving all throughout the ages — up to and including bands like the 5, 6, 7, 8s.

While not every note was perfectly in tune or in time, the Ghost Wolves are one of the few bands where the imperfections are truly part of their charm — the duo played to their own rhythm, feeding off of each other’s cues during long love songs with drawn out breaks before crashing back into tempo.

Carley Wolf, with a Betty Boop voice and an unexpectedly killer mastery of the slide guitar, danced around on stage with a giant smile, drawing most of the crowd’s attention, while Johnny Wolf appeared to be the stabilizing factor of the group, making most of the suggestions on what song to play next and taking lead vocals on one or two of the songs as well.

The Gwolves, as the band requested the crowd to call them at the end of the night, finished their set by teasing out a bit of crowd participation, getting the room to sing, “I gonna live, gonna live, gonna live and I’m not gonna die!” before letting Burrowss take the stage.

Burrowss, who has been playing in the St. Louis area for just under a year now, remains one of the city’s best secrets in regards to real rock ‘n’ roll. While a predilection for fuzzy-toned ’60s garage rock is evident throughout their set, it’s impossible to link Burrowss back to a single influence.

As soon as the crowd settled in to the heavy distortion and hard-hitting snare of set-opener “Cut Your Film,” the song was already sliding into the title track of their album, “Don’t Take It Slow,” which could be called a beachy ’60s throwback, provided Brian Wilson traded in his four-part harmonies for an angry-sounding synth.

“Lover” remained, as always, a standout moment in the set — a heartbreaking ballad about the dangers of drinking where vocalist Emily Keefauver’s voice shines out, recalling the mournful tones of Patsy Cline, with just a twinge of roughness behind it, as if Patti Smith had shaken Cline around a bit before performing.

The set marks Burrowss’ first time performing with their new drummer, Jesse Olive. Yet despite his newcomer status, Olive gave a near-perfect performance, lending a new energy to the band’s set. If the show at the Heavy Anchor is any indication of what St. Louisians can look forward to in the future, Burrowss might not be one of the city’s best-kept secrets for much longer.

Concert review and interview: JEFF the Brotherhood (with Sleepy Kitty and Juiceboxxx) brings Nashville chaos to Off Broadway on Tuesday, July 31

JEFF the Brotherhood at Off Broadway. Photo by Caroline Philippone.

During the single hour containing JEFF the Brotherhood‘s set, I had three beers poured on my head, one pocket knife placed in my back pocket and four bruises just waiting to show up the next day.

While I was not personally accustomed to Tuesday night’s uproar, this brand of chaos seems standard fare for the Orrall brothers from Nashville, who released their album “Hypnotic Nights” on Warner Brothers July 17.

Openers Sleepy Kitty, an indie-rock duo from St. Louis, started the night at Off Broadway with large heaps of reckless (and bass-less) enthusiasm, a spirit that quickly won over the still-thin crowd despite technical difficulties during their set. With harmonies alternating between full, choral sweetness and ear-splitting shrieks, the duo swiftly reminded crowds why it’s worth heading out to LouFest early this year, where the band will play at 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 25.

Milwaukee’s Juiceboxxx offered an eclectic touch to the evening as a rapper whose style and songs owe just as much to basement punk shows as they do to old-school hip-hop. Yet in spite of his unswervingly earnest and even volatile performance, the audience seemed torn between buying into Juiceboxxx’s stage presence (asking a girl up onstage to “Bruce Springsteen” with him) and wishing his backing band would walk off a few songs early.

Yet by the time JEFF the Brotherhood took the stage, it was clear that St. Louis had turned itself out just to see the brothers play. After two blasts of smoke from the fog machine and a few heavily distorted notes rumbling out of vocalist Jake Orrall’s signature (and see-through) three-stringed guitar, the audience, which appeared near-capacity, started hollering back their appreciation for the band — and all of that noise was only for sound check.

The band came back on to kick off their set with a relatively calm rendition of “Mystic Portal II” from its latest album, giving the audience a brief moment of respite to prepare themselves for the eventual build-up towards JEFF’s signature sound — a wall of heavy distortion, static melodies and, when used, vocals and lyrics that inevitably recall a pop-punk tendency towards simple lines and straight-forward hooks.

These qualities were most noticeably showcased during songs such as “Mellow Out” from “We Are the Champions,” or “Bummer” from earlier effort “Heavy Days.” During that song, drummer Jamin Orrall fell nearly silent as his brother sang, “We must be drinking a little too much on the weekends,” with painstaking vocals layered over a half-muted guitar, creating a tone of regret relatable to anybody who’s ever made a few late-night mistakes of their own.

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