Let’s talk about last Tuesday night. The Wombats played Terminal 5. The honor of being able to make that statement has been a long time coming. The U.K.-based trio has been around since 2007, and has toured the U.S. extensively over the last couple of years, but until this night they hadn’t played a New York venue larger than Webster Hall.
American fans of British bands are often spoiled when it comes to touring stateside; it’s not uncommon for bands with top billing at festivals like Reading and Leeds to perform in New York at places like Mercury Lounge (capacity 250 people) or Baby’s All Right (280 people). In fact, The Wombats did play at Mercury Lounge earlier this year. Being able to see such great bands in such small venues can sometimes make fans wish the bands would stay “small” forever, but as the saying goes, “If you love something, let it go to Terminal 5.” And, for the record, the venue was packed.
The first to perform on Tuesday was the Brooklyn-based POP ETC. The band has toured throughout the U.S. and Japan, and has performed with bands including Death Cab for Cutie, The Kooks, and X Japan. However, according to Spotify, they are most well known for their song “Speak Up”, from the Twilight film Breaking Dawn – part 2. That’s got to be frustrating. Regardless, their dynamic performance was well received by the audience. They performed songs from their upcoming LP Souvenir, as well as recent singles “Bad Break” and “Running in Circles”.
Royal Teeth was next, a five-piece band from Louisiana. They burst onto the stage dancing, with enough energy for every last person in the audience. If they were feeling celebratory, it’s with good reason; earlier this year, the group signed with Elektra records and are releasing their major-label debut in 2016.
Their set included a cover of the song “Heartbeats,” originally by The Knife, as well as their own songs “Mais La” and “Wild.” A cursory search through Wikipedia revealed that “Wild” has already been featured in ads for the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Buick Verano, State Farm, Bose, American Eagle, Metro AG, The Voice, 90210, ESPN, TLC, PBS, Yahoo, and Fox. Not bad for an indie band.
When “Just Like Heaven” finally begins to play over the venue’s PA system, the audience knows it’s nearly time for The Wombats. They open with “Give Me a Try”, a song that’s in stark contrast to anything performed by the night’s two previous bands; “We could be gigantic/ Everything I need/ Vicodin on Sunday nights/ This could be worth the risk/ Worth the guarantee/ This could be the drug that does’t bite/ Just give me a try,” sings Matthew Murphy. This is followed by songs about one night stands (“Jump Into The Fog”), insomnia (“Moving to New York”) and longing for an adolescence that wasn’t all that great (“1996”).
It’s not that the first two bands to play on Tuesday weren’t great, it’s that they’re just so…clean. Nearly all songs by The Wombats share a feeling of alienation, of trying to fit in to a world that just doesn’t get you. Murphy often writes from his own experiences with depression, and it’s this approach to the creation of their songs that make them so relatable to people that have a hard time relating in general.
About halfway through the set, Murphy shares a story about the song “Pink Lemonade.” The writing of it involved drinking alone in Barcelona, and convincing himself that his girlfriend was sleeping with a random acquaintance. They beauty of it all is that as nuts as their lyrics can be, or the strange evolution of their songs, the audience knew every word. And they danced. And it was awesome.
The show closed the way all Wombats shows close; with “Let’s Dance to Joy Division.” It was the band’s first single, released in 2007, and probably their most beloved song. It remains the perfect encapsulation of the band’s ethos, “Let’s dance to Joy Division/ And raise our glass to the ceiling/ ‘Cause this could all go so wrong/ But we’re so happy.” Even after the band left the stage, that feeling was underscored with “You Can Call Me Al” playing from the PA system, and the audience continuing to dance until Paul Simon sang his last note.