Fans properly receive Little Wild’s “Victories”

Joshua Erickson crowdsurfs back to the stage during "Brown Vest." Photo: Jaimi Wainright

Joshua Erickson crowdsurfs back to the stage of The Cobalt during set closer on Nov. 29, “Brown Vest.” Photo: Jaimi Wainright

It’s been a little over a year since Little Wild finished recording their first LP.

Little Wild sent back substandard test pressings, sent business emails into seemingly endless and slow-moving threads of negotiation and, as they waited, they sat frustrated and disheartened by the thick molasses of the music business. The wait was tough. Luckily, their vexations were paralleled by their accomplishments.

The members got to change gears; they got back to living life around the band. But they made time for shows again. They played at the Pop Montréal festival in Quebec, they played at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles and, on Nov. 29, they played The Cobalt in Vancouver for their album release show.

After a year of waiting, struggling and accomplishing, Little Wild finally popped the cork out for the new chapter of their career.

Jake Holmes is one of the best drummers to watch live. Photo: Jaimi Wainright

Jake Holmes is one of the best drummers to watch live. Photo: Jaimi Wainright

I showed up at The Cobalt before doors opened. Ironically, the door was open. I could see Little Wild preparing for soundcheck. I noticed that Layton Keely – lead singer of Little Wild – had a vintage-looking, sea-foam green mic on stage. The mic simulated a tin-can timbre in his voice. It was a tasteful addition to the rotary dial telephone that he modified into a microphone, which distorted his voice into a fuzzy lo-fi vibe.

After Cheap High and The Jen Huangs finished their opening sets, Little Wild made their way to the stage.

The crowd howled and clapped as Little Wild walked onstage in front of the red velvet curtain. Synthetic fog curled around smiley show-goers. Hundreds of LED lights beamed onto the musicians and the audience. Ambient noise from the band’s amplifiers reverberated around the room and then an overdriven guitar chugged steadily. A tambourine shook with a swing.

And as Keely stepped back from the mic after singing the first words from “Clever,” brother Zachary Keely played the hooky guitar riff on an arctic white Fender Stratocaster, homage to Albert Hammond Jr. The overdrive of his guitar attacked like the sound of ripping Velcro and sustained like the sound of a rusty chainsaw. Joshua Erickson thickened the guitar lick with a parallel bass riff. The sound thundered several octaves below, a sound that filled the chest of everyone in the room. As the wash of the crash cymbals faded, Jake Holmes continued pounding at the wood-shelled floor tom and snare of his father’s ’60s Slingerland drumkit, and his body bounced with the beat atop his throne.

As a guitarist, Zachary Keely enjoys the work of The Edge from U2, or Freddy from The Vaccines. Photo: Jaimi Wainright

As a guitarist, Zachary Keely enjoys the work of The Edge from U2 and Freddy Cowan from The Vaccines. The delay and reverb effects that he’s fond of doesn’t really show up in Little Wild’s work, though. Photo: Jaimi Wainright

Little Wild started powerfully. As the set continued, the crowd got rowdier, with more people in the air than on the ground. I remember some Asian kid being crowdsurfed. I had a brilliant view from the sky-high shoulders of The Jen Huangs’ member Patrick Lewis.

“Gallows Humour” was another notable song and the recorded version, though it’s well-done, doesn’t do it justice. It’s a song that needs to be appreciated live, specifically because of the descending bass line and group vocals during the altered chorus section.

I’m glad to see that Little Wild kept some of their best oldies, like “Gallows.” It brought back memories of their renowned “Vestivals.” “Brown Vest,” another old song, is the nickname of the band’s long-time friend Ciaran Maverick. A few years ago, the band was playing a Vestival. Keely announced they were playing their last song. Maverick feigned discontent at Keely’s words, booing the band for deciding to curtain call. Another long-time friend of the band – who was inebriated – heatedly interrogated Maverick about his pseudo-heckling, and to interrupt Maverick’s apologetic defense, he said, “Quiet, brown-vest! You’re in enough trouble as it is!” The name stuck.

Layton Keely likes character voices, like Jack White's or Lemmy's. You can hear it in his vocals. Photo: Jaimi Wainright

Layton Keely likes character voices, like Jack White’s or Lemmy’s. You can hear it in his vocals. Photo: Jaimi Wainright

The band closed with “Brown Vest” at the release show, but the crowd’s chanting brought them up for an encore. People who frequent Little Wild shows know this song as the one where a conga line twists around the entire venue – an activity unique to Little Wild’s shows.

That night, Little Wild proved their musical abilities and they proved their maturity as songwriters. There was none of the sloppiness from their past on stage. It’s been this way for a while now, save for a couple of off-shows the band would rather sweep under the rug.

This show, however, is one everyone is going to remember for a long time.

This article has been edited for accuracy since its publication.

Kier Junos

When he's not playing shows with Casinos, Kier writes for Red On Black Music,( and he is also a freelance reporter/photographer at The B.C. Catholic Newspaper in Vancouver.

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