After listening to two opening acts and standing around well past 8 p.m., the crowd was restless and anxious for The Wombats to come onstage at The Warfield in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the band’s tour bus had broken down on the way up from its show in San Diego the night before, so the set was pushed back, a hazard of the glamorous tour life.
The band hails from famed Liverpool but makes no attempt to try to live up to the pop culture phenomenon of the town’s predecessors, instead, finding its niche in indie rock. After meeting in university, the members began releasing EPs in 2003, with their first full length album Girls, Boys and Marsupials released in 2006 exclusively in Japan.
The Wombats’ big break came in 2007 with the buoyant, head-bopping single “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” from international debut album A Guide to Love, Loss, & Desperation, and the band has been building up a loyal fan base ever since. Now, a little more than a decade after that big break, the band continues to churn out hits for indie Spotify playlists and hip downtown cafes.
Thankfully the band members were smart enough to post on social media platforms that the concert had been delayed, so the crowd wasn’t grumbling with irritation at the late appearance — but everyone was restlessly tired, with the energy ebbing and flowing with each opening act.
Although the buzz from everyone’s drink was slowly wearing off, The Wombats burst onto the stage and invigorated the audience, launching into “Cheetah Tongue” off the band’s latest album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, immediately followed by one of its hit singles “Give Me a Try,” turning the crowd into a jumping mosh pit.
This fast pace was kept up throughout the night, with very little talking between songs — the band stopped after each song only long enough for lead vocalist Matthew Murphy to switch out his guitar and say a few words introducing the next couple songs.
Despite a few lulls in the setlist during the more mellow songs, the band members kept up the hype up with their infectious exuberant energy — partly thanks to bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen’s frenetic zigzagging across the stage during each song. The band also had gimmicks strategically placed in its setlist to rejuvenate the crowd. Around halfway through the set, Murphy brought out his dog Drake, much to the excitement of the canine-friendly audience. When the band played its perennial “Let’s Dance to Joy Division,” the stage was suddenly filled with people dressed in unintentionally creepy wombat costumes, dancing along and hyping up the crowd even more.
Although only a trio, The Wombats have the same rock-and-roll presence of the larger bands that flooded America during the British Invasion. The band’s longevity in the music industry has cemented its status as indie mainstream. And even though the members are well into their 30s, they still play with the same earnest enthusiasm as an up-and-coming band playing in a dingy bar, proving that they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
Contact Julie Lim at [email protected].