Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Pineapple Folk & One Inch Badge present: WHY? @ Deaf Institute, Friday 19th March, 2010

The hip hop/indie hybrid is one that intuition says might not necessarily work, but Yoni Wolf’s energetic showmanship could lead the way for pretty well any unlikely genre-mash. His appeal is almost idolatry to the sell out swarm of awkward music geeks crammed into the Deaf Institute’s delightfully decorated upstairs venue.

Josiah Wolf is first up though, failing to imitate the same stage presence as his brother, but providing a mellow solo acoustic start.

Berlin’s five-piece I Might Be Wrong boast a wider selection of instruments and lead chanteuse Lisa von Billerbeck helps to exude the same sullen, downtrodden indie-electro-pop allure as the likes of Au Revoir Simone and Metric. Flick over to the organ setting on your keyboard and you’re halfway there. The other half unfortunately loses its way a little, as songs begin to sound samey and they become submerged beneath the beats-led nature of their soundscapes. That isn’t to say the performance is bad; just lessened by comparison with what follows.

WHY?, still performing as the line-up swelled by two a couple of years ago, kick off with ‘Song of the Sad Assassin’, an effective introduction notable for the fashionably late entrance by Yoni Wolf and his intermittent frenzies of karate. Wolf gains some local kudos by sporting his Lamb t-shirt, although after the early flurry of tracks, and consequent sing-a-longs, from 2008 album Alopecia, he couldn’t be any more of a star in the eyes of those watching so intently. ‘Good Friday’, ‘The Vowels Pt 2’ and ‘The Fall of Mr Fifths’ from the aforementioned album are well received, as Wolf junior’s vocoded echoes are given a healthy usage.

“Welcome to Manchest-uh,” is the heckled reply to the Wolfs’ anecdote of near-murder that evening, as part of an odd break between songs. Josiah, manning the percussion and relegated to backing vocals for the main event, bafflingly brings up his earlier stint in the limelight, seemingly to gauge a reaction. My advice is to stick to the rhythm section, as he does on ‘A Sky for Shoeing Horses Under’ with the delicate xylophone intro, but his backseat is confirmed when eyes switch back to Yoni; conducting the crowd with his claws.

There’s time for some tracks from latest album Eskimo Snow. ‘This Blackest Purse’ is performed more pensively; less animated than the set’s norm, which is later powered home zestfully in a “Fuck You!” jointly exclaimed with the crowd during ‘The Hollows’; typical of the pied-piper effect that Yoni radiates.

Words: Ian Pennington
Picture, top: Nelesh Dhand


  1. failing to imitate the same stage presence as his brother? as if he were a cheap ikea version of yoni? how sadly closeminded and honestly offensive. is it so necessary to berate one brother all the while praising the other? you don't have to like josiah's music, but advising him to "stick to the rhythm section" as his YOUNGER (not older) brothers side kick is over the top and inappropriate.

    do you ask black people to sit in the back of the bus "where they belong" in your fantasy world? i think not. please forgive the wake up call. it seemed necessary.

  2. Anonymous,

    You can interpret it how you like. The meaning I was aiming for was that Yoni is the star attraction who people bought their tickets to see. It was also the fact that Josiah Wolf brought up his own set during the WHY? performance that made me compare the two of them. If Yoni Wolf had mentioned his brother's set then I wouldn't have thought anything of it, but when you seek approval like that you leave yourself open to comparison.

    In suggesting that I'm referring to him as a "side kick", I assume you think I regard the drums as a lesser instrument. In fact I said, "Josiah, manning the percussion and relegated to backing vocals...", (ie. changing instrument and stepping back from vocals) merely pointing out that he has a different role in WHY? than in his solo music, but also pointing out how the performance is seen by the audience; Yoni taking all the attention.

    I'm happy to correct the age error. That was an honest mistake.

  3. dear ian,

    i appreciate your reply. i don't normally go to such lengths to point out these things online but with the influx of absurd yoni/josiah comparisons since the release of josiah's record it looks like i've finally had it and felt i needed to respond to one of those criticisms. it just happens to be yours.

    now while i agree that for SOME of the audience yoni is the center of attention. however having known these fine young men for 10 years personally, i can assure you that there is a very large portion of audience attendance there to see josiah play the drums just as much if not more than to see yoni sing and dance. they all go together like a well oiled machine, doug is just as key an element to the live appeal that why? has acquired. not to mention the fans there now to see andy and mark (maybe more so in the states i'm not sure).

    i will happily admit that i have a bias view because josiah is my boyfriend of nearly 4 years. regardless of that fact, my statements to you are legitimate. it's obvious that josiah's set left you unimpressed given that you had no words to say past his "failure to be as bombastic and wowingly awesome" as yoni is. yoni is his own person. josiah is not yoni. why anyone expects his music or his stage presence to be even remotely similar is beyond me. it does make me realize that certain people do not take josiah seriously, merely that he supports yoni's antics and is best suited as his counterpart.

    the fact that josiah mentioned his own set (i haven't asked him what he said and you didn't repeat it) during why's set has most likely been misinterpreted by you and supposedly the audience... he is not as forthright and bold as yoni so anything he says might be misread - though is most likely just him being awkward.

    lastly, and then i will quiet my long winded self...

    perhaps you didn't notice that josiah was playing guitar and foot pedals with a drum, percussion and possibly the vibraphone (not xylophone - also a common mistake) though i'm not sure he is looping that anymore on this tour. and singing. at the same time. and that his songs are sad and if he were to behave in any way other than he does -

    he would look like a fool.

    you will forgive me again, josiah matthew wolf is the love of my life and i tend to be brash in my reactions to things i find unjustified and misinformed. i hope that you can someday enjoy and relish in the differences between josiah and yoni. i do. and by the way, they also have a younger sister becky.

    and she's nothing like either of them.

  4. i'm sorry, you are also misinformed about how long andy and mark have been playing with why? not a couple of years - austin brown was their bass player before this and before him was matt meldon. they have been touring with why? since late last year. that's one fall US tour, one AU/NZ, and now europe. they will tour with why again later this summer in the US.

    you are going to hate me forever. i'm sorry there are just too many errors and i think if you have the position of informing the public you should have all your facts straight. i do think the rest of your review was good by the way.

  5. E.D.T.H.,

    Thank you for your more reasoned reply. I can assure you that I didn't and don't have any agenda against Josiah. What I heard him say, to paraphrase, was merely, "Did you see my set? What did you think?" It wasn't overly confident or brash, but to my mind it was an odd thing to say during WHY?'s performance, as I have suggested above.

    I can see that the "stick to the rhythm section" statement is phrased in a way that sounds critical, but isn't meant to be as critical as you've taken it to be. I follow it up by pointing out the positive of his intro to 'A Sky For Shoeing Horses Under', which (after his aforementioned questions to the audience) I felt immediately justified his rhythmic role as a crucial contribution to the WHY? sound. The critical element to what I was saying is that I didn't think it was the time or place to start talking about his own set.

    As far as the instruments he plays goes, I didn't have the greatest view of his set-up so said "xylophone" based on the sound and what I could see from afar. But thank you for correcting me on this.

  6. Ian, another error I feel I have to point out: the Lamb shirt Yoni is wearing in fact has nothing to do with the Lamb from Manchester. Totally different band. I don't know if Yoni even realized the coincidence as he wears that shirt a little too often.

  7. dear ian,

    josiah has asked me to forward you this message:

    "About that Manchester show I'm pretty postive I haven't ever mentioned my set during the why? set. Usually yoni thanks me or doug says something and I respond awkwardly sometimes but I've never brought it up first. That just isn't something I would do. I don't even like when they mention it. I'm not sure what that guy is talking about. Sometimes it's easy to confuse who is talking from the audience perspective. Or perhaps he missed whoever brought it up and only heard me fumbling or something. Anyhow I wouldn't worry about it. His whole journalistic approach is cocky and one dimentional. Nothing original or insightful. In fact the whole article is full of "honest mistakes". One of the many is his reference to yoni's lamb shirt. That is a messianic jewish group that we grew up listening to as kids. Not the trip hop group from his home town he is referring to. About as opposite as you can get. They wouldn't print a shirt in this style. He strikes me as the kind of guy who likes to come across as knowing about lots of stuff but his knowledge of each subject is very limited."

    i'm sure you had no idea that when you posted this review you'd be blasted with comments straight from the horse's mouth. i promise we aren't a bunch of jerks - we just have to be honest when duty calls. there are too many incidents where reviewers/critics claim their information is "factual" when really they are just giving their opinion or copying what they read/hear from other sources. we are all free to do so but if you use opinions under the guise of being The Truth, you run the risk of being criticized yourself.

    you may even think it petty that we would spend so much time on just your article. but if you have any cred - people are going to take what you say verbatim and thus the cycle continues.

    that being said, i wish you luck and perhaps from now on you will take more care to properly inform people, and spend less energy on emoting your negative opinions regarding people you have no real interest or understanding of and i would avoid stroking the ego of others.

    it's just in poor taste really.

    liz hodson

  8. Liz,

    I can see that I have possibly misinterpreted elements of the gig, so I apologise for those you've pointed out, and am grateful for your pointing them out. That people can leave comments on blogs is one of their benefits, so that accuracy may be sought.

    I am in fact pleased that you've taken so much time to comment, and do not consider it 'petty', as you suggest. Discussion and different angles are part of life.

    As far as masquerading as The Truth goes, I don't believe that I have ever insinuated an overall Truth in this, or any, review. I believe a gig review is opinion by nature and I seek to write about music performance as I see it. It is solely the perception of the writer. The awkward onstage interchange may have, as I say, been misinterpreted, but I have only told it how I've seen it. The Lamb t-shirt could potentially be adjudged as synonymous with the Manchester band by any audience member, so even if it refers to another band it could be considered local kudos. That said, it is obviously preferable to me that I include truths where possible; where it isn't merely a matter of opinion. So it is those I am apologising for above.

    I hadn't previously read any of these reviews or pieces of writing that have compared Josiah and Yoni, and thus I wasn't aware of the negative press that you seem to be responding to through this blog. I believe that in light of this you have taken my review massively out of proportion. I reviewed the gig as a single entity and, aside from the few errors you have mentioned, I would argue that it is actually quite a positive review (even for Josiah when you look at the part about his percussion on 'A Sky for Shoeing Horses Under') and one that doesn't set itself out as a character assassination (as you seem to believe), but merely includes a couple of sentences that happen to highlight the difference between Josiah and Yoni in relation to my perception of the gig. Furthermore, I don't believe that I'm stroking Yoni's ego by detailing the audience's reaction; that is not my intention anyway; again, I am writing about the gig as I saw it. However, it is interesting to hear your feedback on these elements of the review, so thank you for your input.