Live Review

Le Loup, Mercury Lounge, NY

What do you do when the wolf evolves? Do you run, hide, or let it envelope you with its newly strengthened jaws?

What do you do when the wolf evolves? Do you run, hide, or let it envelope you with its newly strengthened jaws?

Le Loup’s first album, ‘The Throne…’, was an exercise in anxiety, an outsider’s perspective of digitally manipulated sound. That album’s tenor can be summed up by the song title ‘Outside The Car, The End Of The World!’ It’s music made to describe current experience as the end of the world, and to revel in it. Their second LP, ‘Family’, is a communal affair, steeped in the hills and moss of North Carolina, where the album was recorded. It speaks to the calm after the storm and natural reverence afforded the survivors of any apocalypse.

Marrying the dread and alienation of ‘The Throne…’ to the peace and joy of ‘Family’ is no small task, yet Le Loup perform this ceremony, bringing songs from both albums to the stage, with the humility and grace of the very best preachers. The band begin their set with the strummed autoharp of ‘Saddle Mountain’, and the lone song of Sam Simkoff, lead wolf. Bringing this new song to the stage, Simkoff’s voice lilts like an old recording of Gallic folk songs. This is probably the band’s outright prettiest moment of the night, layering instrumentation until they finish the song, fully engaged with their new single.

As they play through ‘Beach House’, Simkoff ranges around the stage, singing to each band member, drawing them further into a shared performance, cementing the pack mentality and kinship. When they begin one of their older songs, ‘Outside The Car…’, it is easy to see how they have grown and developed. Instead of the original digital drums, the band push over an undeniably danceable beat, bringing a touch of disco to their tribal rhythm. In the translation of ‘We Are Gods! We Are Wolves!’ that follows, a hint of South African guitar coerced the old song into newer territories. ‘Grow’ keeps the South African guitar work, and brings the drums to the forefront of the performance, flirting melodically with an almost doo-wop sound.

Coming to the middle of their set, the plucked banjo intro of ‘Le Loup (Fear Not)’ is received with a resounding whoop from the crowd. What begins as one of the more upbeat songs from Le Loup’s first album grows and morphs into a straight-up barn burning - no, a whole farm or county burning rave up. Twin guitars, samples, massive drums, bass, and Simkoff’s voice all conspire to pull each audience member out of the crowd and into the pack.

The second half of the show is heavy with new songs, each one transcending their digital recordings. Towards the end, Le Loup gorge themselves on new title track ‘Family’, which is translated into an eight-minute epic culminating with Simkoff fulfilling his duty as shaman, alone on stage, hammering away on two drums amidst a roar of distortion and reverb. The set closes with ‘A Celebration’, the perfect summation of Le Loup’s live show.

Tags: Le Loup, Features

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