LIVE: Chappaqua Wrestling / Nature TV – Birmingham Sunflower Lounge, 23/05/2023
It’s Charlie Woods’ birthday today and Chappaqua Wrestling fully intend to celebrate the fact, hitting the excellent Sunflower Lounge for a long-sold-out show in the midst of a tour for their debut album, Plus Ultra, which has been heaped with praise from all directions since its release just a few weeks back.
They’ve brought along Nature TV to join the party, who open the night with a fine performance, their sound a little like you would imagine from a dream collaboration of Steely Dan and Felt, should they ever bow to public pressure and give us that supergroup we’ve all been waiting for. The guitars have the brightness of Pure Bathing Culture and the vocals a hint of world-weariness that you might not expect to work on paper, but in reality the combination is a winner. There have been a few digital singles so far; the album when it comes will be well worth a listen on this evidence.
Chappaqua Wrestling are built around a core of Charlie Woods and Jake MacLeod who share vocal duties (with the occasional help from Coco on keyboards) – if this was The Clash then Woods would be Joe Strummer to MacLeod’s Mick Jones. Possibly due to the combined celebrations of the album’s success, the ongoing tour and his birthday, Woods’ voice has a little edge that certainly has a touch of Strummer to it, and the band’s visceral energy make that lofty comparison a valid one.
As Coco takes to the stage first to build the atmosphere with some ambient keyboard wizardry, the rest of the band negotiate the crowd to take their places and begin with the relatively low-key, slow build of ‘Fair Game’ before immediately going for the metaphorical jugular with the angular guitar stabs of ‘Kulture’ raising the temperature of the already warm room. The strong start continues with their most recent single ‘Wayfinding’ also thrown in early, its euphoric chorus echoed around the Sunflower Lounge.
A raucous ‘Happy Birthday’ is then delivered by the Birmingham crowd before the band throw another single into the mix: ‘Full Round Table’ has the crowd continuing their choral duties, the whole crowd seemingly already knowing the words to every song and happily demonstrating this throughout the show. Shots for the band (of the liquid variety) are even delivered to the stage mid-set, such is the party atmosphere of the night.
‘Opaque’ from the album is another that could easily be a single, the twin vocals bringing something different to the song, while the record’s twin songs ‘My Fall’ and ‘My Fall II’ are delivered consecutively, the latter giving the band another dimension with the vocals of Coco added into the mix.
The energetic ‘Need You No More’ seems to be the new crowd favourite, eliciting a furore at the front before the band’s biggest singalong moment, ‘Wide Asleep’ ends the main set with the crowd delivering the refrain of “Worry about your present / Then you’re future’s fine” in impressive fashion.
The band are in their element, both Woods and MacLeod indulging in the classic stage dive during an evening that showcases the more anthemic tunes from the new album with their more shoegazey early material, none fitting that description more than closing encore song, 2020 single ‘The Rift’ which sounds like it could be the work of Nothing or Diiv.
Chappaqua Wrestling have the energy, the tunes and importantly a real likability and chemistry as a band that gives them more than a fighting chance of continuing their upward trajectory. Catch them if you can!
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