All Them Witches

support The Ghost Wolves
author AP date 26/09/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Nashville, TN’s self-styled psychedelta blues outfit All Them Witches has enjoyed a surge of popularity lately, much of it resting on the success of their third and fourth studio albums, 2015’s “Dying Surfer Meets His Maker” and this year’s “Sleeping through the War”. That the band has been attracting more attention in Denmark too, is evident both in the frequency with which the band now visits us (tonight represents the second time in just over a year) and the amount of crowd they are able to draw; the downstairs room of Pumpehuset must be very close to sold out tonight and quite unusually, it is at that capacity already before the evening’s opening act takes the stage.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

The Ghost Wolves

The honour of opening the proceedings on this tour has befallen the Austin, TX-born Ghost Wolves, a duo made up of siblings Carley ‘Carazy’ Wolf on guitar & vocals, and Jonathan ‘Little Hammer’ Wolf manning the drums. In “Gonna Live”, the blues ridden opening track, the former’s singing resembles none other than the Blues Pills’ Elin Larsson, but as betrayed by her white leather pants, crop-top and wicked smile, she is in fact quite the femme fatale. On the surface, Carazy seems to have the customary sweetness and swagger of a Texan country girl, but as the likes of “Fast” and “Dangerous Moves” soon reveal, she has also studied the riot grrrl movement, lacing her voice with venom and charging her attitude up with a snappy bite. Indeed, there is a brashness about the way she carries herself on stage, bumping into things and knocking things over as she lets loose her blues-punk riffs with techniques ranging from slide guitar to muted finger picking, and it seems to rub the audience the right way. When she asks us questions like “y’all like to be good, or y’all like to be ba-aaad?” or “any one of y’all like crybabies?”, she is invariably met with the right answer and loud cheers; and when she needs us to join her for some whoa-ohs in the final track, “Journey On”, she is met with enthusiastic compliance.

Carazy’s showmanship inevitably leaves Little Hammer in the shadows, which, from a performance standpoint, makes the band more Ghost Wolf than Ghost Wolves. But listening in, the man actually has a rare groove to his percussion without which the duo’s music might be exposed for what it is — quirks, effects and rowdiness aplenty, but light on actual lasting value. One gets the feeling that the Ghost Wolves are a live act first, and a recording artist second — it works extremely well for a fast and furious support slot clocking in at 30 minutes, but raises questions about longevity, were the two musicians to return in a headlining capacity next time.

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All Them Witches

Usually, the most magical experiences from the realms of doom, psychedelic and stoner tend to be had in the intimate confines of another Copenhagen venue: Loppen. But tonight, the power-balance is firmly in Pumpehuset’s favour, with the Nashville, TN one-upping their performance at said venue last year in all respects, delivering one of the most mesmerising concerts witnessed in the Danish capital this year. Whereas that previous occasion boasted the ruggedness and laid back attitude of a quintessential stoner rock show, tonight’s proceedings are much more esoteric and intense; the four musicians are obscured by dim lighting and smoke and seem completely entranced, offering little else by way of interaction with the audience than a dramatic, Shakespearean monologue (courtesy of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks) as an introduction to “Internet” well into the set. And although all of the musicians remain fixed to their respective positions for the duration of the set, that feeling of monotony that so often hinders these types of artists in the live setting never becomes an issue.

It never ceases to amaze me how much louder, heavier and jammier All Them Witches manage to sound live than on record, with the likes of “Elk.Blood.Heart” and “Charles William” both translated into a much more insistent and hypnotising format than on their parent records, 2012’s “Our Mother Electricity” and its successor, 2013’s “Lightning at the Door”. Indeed, the fact that the setlist taped to the stage floor is so untrustworthy tonight is a testimony to this outfit’s penchant for feeling out the groove and jamming from one song to the next without a strict order in mind — and that organicity is exactly what separates this concert from the ‘Witches last séance here. It makes you appreciate not only the songwriting prowess possessed by this band, but also the hyperawareness that exists between the individual musicians. It feels like the quartet would be perfectly capable of playing a full concert without ever having written music together; the songs would simply come together on their own — which incidentally is more or less exactly how the band’s 2015 outing “Dying Surfer Meets His Maker” came to fruition.

Indeed, tonight’s concert has the feel of a long jam session, with the band completely lost in the moment. No doubt that certain persons might find this kind of detachment and introspection to be a point of criticism but for me, the mysterious and evocative visual aesthetic only heightens my intrigue. Songs such as “Mellowing” (segued beautifully into “Talisman”) and “Am I Going Up?” not only sound, but also look stunning, and even though it must be said that the imposing, Nick Cave-esque charisma and versatile singing of Parks often invite the brightest spotlight unto him, the entire band has a stake in making it so. Truly, it is a pleasure to witness such a tight and thoroughly practiced ensemble exuding such passion together, and so when the onset of “Swallowed by the Sea” in the encore heralds the set’s coming to an end, at well past an hour and a half since its beginning, most people in attendance look nowhere close to satisfied yet. We leave, however, feeling in unison that what we have just seen was something truly special.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Howdy Hoodee Slank
  • 02. 3-5-7
  • 03. Elk.Blood.Heart
  • 04. Charles William
  • 05. When God Comes Back
  • 06. Mellowing
  • 07. Talisman
  • 08. Internet
  • 09. Blood and Sand / Milk and Endless Waters
  • 10. Am I Going Up?
  • 11. Alabaster
  • 12. Bulls

— Encore —

  • 13. Swallowed by the Sea

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