Despite the damp and drizzly night and the location of The Wardrobe on the outer ring of the city centre; Austin, Texas’ The Ghost Wolves managed to attract a large crowd for an opening act and no one seemed more excited than the band themselves. Consisting of a single guitar and drums these guys can make a massive noise as they demonstrated as they lunged into their set. I didn’t know what to expect, as their own brand of swampy blues garage rock burst out. What was apparent from the start was this is very much a band that is made for the live environment and that their natural charisma and enthusiasm not only points to larger aspirations but was enough to win over an initially tepid Leeds crowd.
From the way that singer Carley, prances rocks and thrusts across the stage to the incredible drumming and rhythm from drummer Jonathan, this is an engaging band and a band that wanted to engage the crowd. Carley made several attempts to banter with the crowd and to encourage sing alongs, and as time goes on and The Ghost Wolves become more known this is a going to be the single aspect that will really make them shine. Unfortunately the vocal mic level for this gig was such (and it proved a little bit of a problem all night) that the crowd could not really hear what she was saying; so, Carley: the lack of response was not apathy but the acoustics. The set finished with what proved to be finally a successful singalong (“My Grandma is a Rebel Raised By the Devil”) and two songs played on a one string guitar. Definitely a band to watch out for.
The Wardrobe had filled up nicely by the time main attractions All Them Witches took to the stage to the sound of Black Sabbath; the response from the crowd was immediate. I was instantly struck by the dynamics and overall rock sound of the band. On record they are subtle, the rock moments shine but are more polished, live All Them Witches prove to a bit of a different beast and one that this Leeds crowd clearly adored. I was captivated by the bass driven rock, which at times was a little doomy and how in the moments of epic-ness from the record this band crank up a gear live and throw some massive metal riff shapes.
It is apparent how hard that this band tours as you will not come across many tighter units but they are also extremely talented each in their own individual right. Bassist/vocalist Parks strutted the stage coming across as the bastard child of a young Henry Rollins and Primus’ Les Claypool, drummer Robby Staebler seemed on the edge of explosion and looking like he had to hold back to not destroy the kit. He looked like the guys doing the rounds on YouTube at the minute playing kids toys instruments and knocking out classic metal covers, at any moment you felt he was going to destroy the kits but was holding himself back from doing so. Keyboardist Allan Cleave looks as though he got lost one night on a Grandaddy tour but liked the vibe and has stayed since wheareas Ben Mcleod plays his guitar with such a subtlety live it is almost going against the grain of the ferociousness released around them.
With a good mix of older songs and those off the new album the band and each song was received with increased enthusiasm by the Leeds crowd and a devotion from some members that is good to still see. For me I was intrigued by the difference between their live persona and that of the record. I think they are two different beasts but actually make for comfortable bedfellows. I also understand the attraction to a band like All Them Witches in the UK. Here we have a heavy tradition of psychedelic rock and there were moments throughout the gig that you could see that nod of acknowledgment to this scene. There were times where it was quite Pink Floyd-y and expansive but really they reminded me a lot of Hawkwind live, yes a little bit less UK stoner and more American style but the space rock and psychedelia to me reached similar level of euphoria. The only disappointment of the gig was again the vocals were not as clear as they could have been and for a band like All Them Witches you do lose something special. The vocals and the vocal delivery are an important aspect of the sound and that intimacy of the album and their recorded output was lost a little because of it. The perfect mix between the intimacy and rock riffs would clearly make for a mammoth sounding band.
Overall this was a great gig on a damp evening and Leeds have proved that they have the venues and the appetite for more of this and I would love to see more rock bands travelling to Leeds using this venue and hopefully they will all be greeted with as much love as All Them Witches were.