Wooden Shjips - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Wooden Shjips - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:

Despite the fact that the band hail from San Francisco, the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds seems like a spiritual home of sorts to psych-rock titans Wooden Shjips. In nearly every press shot I’ve seen of the band's lead guitarist and vocalist Erik ‘Ripley’ Johnson, the man has been sporting that increasingly iconic Brudenell t-shirt designed by David Iver of Herman Dune. Ripley is clearly a man of good taste and it seems only right that he’s wearing the aforementioned t-shirt as he steps onto the stage tonight.

Before Ripley can set sail with his psychedelicised Shjips we’re introduced to up-and-coming Australian singer-songwriter, Gabriella Cohen. The show starts as a charmingly intimate affair; it’s like you’ve wandered into the kitchen at a particularly cool house party to find two friends performing a song. Cohen’s abilities shine through from the start and it’s clear that we’re in the presence of a very natural and gifted songwriter.

The rest of the band comes on stage after a few songs, including a drummer that Cohen had apparently picked up in Dublin just the day before. With the others in place the songs develop something of a Loud Reed-esque swagger. The highlight arguably comes with the melancholic blues strut of ‘I Don’t Feel So Alive’ as the band sing, “this could be the last time that we get together”. Let’s hope it’s not the last time Cohen plays Leeds as it’s a really fantastic set.  

With the stage bathed in suitably psychedelic lighting, it’s time for Wooden Shjips to blow our tiny minds. The band start as they mean to go on and open with ‘Black Smoke Rise’, Nash Whalen’s 60s infused organ dancing around the rhythm sections relentless drive. Every song they play races along with an unwavering commitment to repetition and a breathless, ever-driving momentum. Each song locks into a one-or-two chord riff complimented perfectly by Ripley’s thrillingly explosive solos. A sound based in the sparse, propulsive economy of Neu but with a heavy dose of psychedelia thrown into the mix.

A droning, shimmering set of high-calibre fuzz rock that pulls you along for the ride with the likes of the ridiculously cool ‘Motorbike’. Every song in tonight’s set builds on the last, a sonic mantra that puts the entire room into some kind of joyous, hypnotic state. The guy behind me dances throughout and my head nods along to each song like the toy dog from those Churchill adverts. Wooden Shjips create a live experience that is both immersive and life-affirming, it’s an absolute blast.

There’s arguably little in the way of variation but that only seems to add to the somewhat mesmerising effect of the show. There’s hardly a gap between each song, any pause filled with a drone emanating from the stage and the ringing in my ears. By the time they plough into the mighty ‘Death’s Not Your Friend’ I’m positively euphoric and for a moment that’s all that matters. I confess that I don’t listen to Wooden Shjips all that often on record but live they’re something else.  It’s the sound of the cosmos humming to itself, the sound of the stars exploding.


Comments (2)

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Apparently there's a new Moon Duo album due in February 2017 if you're hanging out for more Ripley J.

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Cool! I like the first Moon Duo album but kind of lost track of them since. If he's half as good live in that incarnation as he is with Shjips then they'll defintely be worth watching live!

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