January 18th, 2011 5:33 pm | by MARK STOCK Music | Posted In: Local Cut, Live Cuts

Live Review: Peter Wolf Crier, Friday, Jan. 14 @ Doug Fir

DSC01484A good band is a double-sided one. Its head sees all and therefore tends to be a bit prettier, occasionally in makeup and always smiling for the studio microphones. Its tail is scrappier, with bald spots here and there and the wagging freedom of next to no constraint.

I saw Peter Wolf Crier's live side on Friday and wish to amend my preview write-up. For those expecting this:
Peter Wolf Crier
[FROM THE SCHOOL OF M.WARD] With freshman release Inter-Be as its beautifully raspy witness, Minneapolis' Peter Wolf Crier is among the brightest Midwestern acts in existence. The Jagjaguwar (Black Mountain, The Besnard Lakes) backed duo holds a tight mastery of the porch-side, whiskey barrel jams of yore we've grown to expect from the M. Ward's and Conor Oberst's of Planet Contemporary Americana. Utilizing instruments as old as their sound, musical bricklayer Peter Pisano and drummer Brian Moen weave warm and hoary drafts of pure, unembellished folk rock. Given Portland's just obsession with Springstein's Nebraska, this show is not to be missed. MARK STOCK.

...my apologies.

Because this would have been more accurate:
Peter Wolf Crier Live
[CAGY CRAFTSMEN] A two-headed beast of Americana, the Twin Cities' Peter Wolf Crier sports one of the strongest records of last year in Inter-Be. While cool and sedated on tape, Peter Pisano and Brian Moen show a rougher underbelly on stage, built from 100-proof pedal guitar loops and drumming that feels more like saber rattling. It's as though ancient folk got in a bar fight and exited with a few less teeth and some ringing in its ears. And when something's picked on—in this case traditional musical elements—it tends to return all the tougher. MARK STOCK

I could have also mentioned that PWC was opening for Retribution Gospel Choir and that its set would be shortened because of it (though it was always destined to be so given the Doug Fir's strict clockwork and the band's limited catalogue). Wishfully, I expected it to be the other way around or different all together given the two bands pronounced distinctions. Perhaps PWC and Portlanders the Builders & The Butchers—a fitting pairing indeed—will tour again once more.


Although brief and knocked around somewhat by loud chatter from the back of the room, Friday's show was mesmerizing. Sure, Pisano draws from M. Ward's smoky nonchalance, but he does so with white knuckles and a demon inside. Just about every song they played was double its standard recorded pace. Moen frantically kept up, whisking thunder and lightning out of his floor tom and snare, respectively. He paused occasionally to arrive at the butt end of a joke, often one tossed out by Pisano. By night's end, several conclusions could be drawn from the band's recreational banter.

*Peter Wolf Crier is excited to the point of being fidgety to be doing that they're doing. They asked the crowd to come by the merch desk so they could thank listeners individually for showing up.

*Moen looks a bit like David Arquette.

*The song “You're So High” is about high school in suburban Chicago.

*Pisano claims he merely “drinks beer and writes songs.” If that's the case, I want to know what beer he's drinking.

Pisano's layering was remarkable, notable in light of the fact that guitar looping seems dated and overdone these days. Yet, his control and timing is brilliant. He creates an entire string chorus with his pedal station, the only match for his teetering vocals. In building crescendos, Pisano would instigate an inspiring game of vocal cat and mouse: Sending one lyric off in the distance only to chase it with a new line half a beat later. Again, the idea here is not new. But the sharpness with which he pulls it off is.

To its credit, Peter Wolf Crier writes songs that fit alongside Pisano's fiery chiming as opposed to trying to infuse and infect it. Thus, a track like the Springstein-esque “Lion” is all the more believable and a pleading track like “Saturday Night” is all the more memorable. Many musicians make the mistake of trying to adapt to their sound and the end result seems so tailor-made you're afraid to wear it in public. Friday, there was no apologizing. PWC filled the hour with the caged animal that sits inside of every track on Inter-Be.

Finishing with a speedy rock ‘n' roll take on Nick Drake's “Place to Be” only solidified things: Peter Wolf Crier is a two-tipped beast of beautiful Americana.

Peter Wolf CrierSpace
Retribution Gospel ChoirSpace
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