Wand @ the Echo on 01.10.20

Lately, I’ve been lacking in the live music posts. Understandable, since there are no more shows on the 2020 horizon. Some are postponed. Most are cancelled. And it’s looking like the light at the end of this tunnel might be a misguided mirage for the immediate and perhaps distant future.

That said, I’ve still got more than a few past shows to dust off and add to the collection. One of these special gems occurred earlier this year, January 10th to be precise, when this great little SoCal psychedelic outfit called Wand performed the intimate and somewhat cramped confines of the Echo. I attended the second of two sold out shows, and as I’d hoped, they were masterfully fantastic, revelatory in scope, and transcendent in sound.

Now, I would’ve tackled this one sooner. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, my extended blog hiatus, coupled with Covid-induced creative defocus, has challenged many of my wants and desires. And no, I’m not infected. Just affected … specifically by how it’s impacted our world. So it’s taken me until now to clear up some blockages and pen this post.

Anyway, Wand marked my second (of four) live shows I caught this year. The last was another brilliant psych-rock act, Tame Impala, who closed the Forum, figuratively and literally. The remaining two will be forthcoming, when I get around to them.

It’s worth mentioning Tame Impala in the same distinct company as Wand, since they both represent varying shades of neo-psychedelia. Tame Impala is undeniably the mega-budget elephant in the infinity room, their tunes a smoother, slicker groove with a high grade of polish.

Wand, on the other hand, is far more modest in their DIY indie roots. They embrace an entirely uninhibited mercurial spontaneity, slightly coarser in garage-rooted guitars, infinitely looser in epic space jams, and all around more rural in their aspirations. And they’re all the better for it.

Of course, I do love both. They’re just different grades of a similar shade.

To date, Wand have five albums, each kaleidoscopically diverse and full of stoned similarity, the latest being 2019’s progressive rock bender “Laughing Matter,” which curiously, the band describe as “a record about love in a time of terror.” … at least, according to the press materials. Sounds prescient and timely, if you ask me.

Most of my footage selects from Wand’s live performance at the Echo come from this immensely likeable, expressive album. I’m not sure if I did that consciously. But it seems to be the stuff that I gravitated towards naturally and immediately.

So onto the good stuff …

There’s seven clips in total, featuring eight wonderful Wand songs, five from the aforementioned “Laughing Matter,” all of which are bathed in multi-hued liquid light and lava lamp swirls. It’s all shot from the side of the stage, since it was too densely packed near the center for my tastes. Consequently, drummer Evan Burrows draws the short stick, often obscured visually by a much larger, lengthier support pole. It’s one of the drawbacks to the Echo’s layout. Audio is quite decent, though. And you can see everyone else – Sofia Arreguin (vocals/synths) in the immediate foreground with her back facing, Cory Hanson (vocals/guitar) holding the center, and Lee Landry (bass) and Robert Cody (guitar), both occupying the spaces in between.

The show kicked off with the synchronous pairing of “Hare” and “Wonder,” as they appear on “Laughing Matter,” a seamless segue from shimmery instrumental scintillations to fuzz and buzz blues and folk rock. It’s an auspicious start, full of prismatic promise and psychedelic hues.

Wand perform “Hare” & “Wonder” at the Echo on 01.10.20.

“Thin Air” offers a likeminded guitar glimmer, bedded by an understated breezy percussion, topped off by frontman Hanson’s high tenor vocal likeness to early-to-mid ’90s Thom Yorke.

In fact, a fair amount of “Laughing Matter” conjures those earlier Radiohead entries, not in a derivative sense, but more as shared subconscious and kindred spirit. It’s a compliment, as far as I’m concerned.

Wand perform “Thin Air” at the Echo on 01.10.20.

“Rio Grande” strikes me as a meditative meander of rural Americana, a lo-fi vista of mellow melody and twangy guitars, not quite country, yet well suited to the countryside. It’s placement, somewhere around the top of the hour, marked an easygoing conclusion to the first half of Wand’s two and half hour set.

Wand perform “Rio Grande” at the Echo on 01.10.20.

Following a brief intermission, Wand returned with a fiery “Fire on the Mountain (I-II-III),” from their 2014 debut LP “Ganglion Reef.” I somehow missed its operatically rock-infused first half, only capturing the concluding instrumental jam – of which, I should note, the night featured many. It’s an oversight, for sure, but nonetheless, still worth experiencing in its abbreviated form.

Wand perform “Fire on the Mountain (I-II-III)” at the Echo on 01.10.20.

“The Gift” comes from the 2018 EP “Perfume,” although feels like it easily could’ve been included on “Laughing Matter.” It’s also the most Radiohead-sounding of my selects, which again, is a complement. It doesn’t stay that way, though, opting to bust into a blistery cacophony of guitar-wank and key slamming bluster for it’s latter third. On album, those jams feel more like ’80s prog rock, which you can still feel in the live performance. But it’s way more subtle, in favor of the unbridled noise.

Wand perform “The Gift” at the Echo on 01.10.20.

Wand wrapped up the second set with an epic travelogue of dream-spaced bliss, titled “Airplane.” It’s my final “Laughing Matter” selection, and perhaps my favorite moment from the show, as well as the new album.

“Airplane” coasts like a road movie for the highways in the sky, a sprawling tune that drifts, then soars over 15 minutes of progressive anticipation, carried by Arreguin’s featherweight vocals and a seemingly infinite jam that never feels tired, nor overstays its welcome. It’s a fitting conclusion to close out their second set.

Wand perform “Airplane” at the Echo on 01.10.20.

As encore, Wand returned to perform the sublimely lo-fi paisley excursion “Melted Rope,” arguably their most popular and recognizable track. Incidentally, this laid-back slice of psychedelia was also my introduction to the world of Wand.

“Melted Rope” comes from the 2015 album “Golem,” but I caught wind of it a few years later at 2018’s excellent Desert Daze festival. Wand was scheduled to perform on day one. But an unscheduled lightning storm took center stage instead. So unfortunately, I didn’t get to see them. But I got this introduction as consolation prize. And as such, I included it in a very early post, back when I was just getting started, because I just liked it so damn much.

It’s a pleasure to see “Melted Rope” performed live, a little rougher around the edges, yet buffed with a subtle kick of six-string flamboyance. It pretty much made my Wand experience complete.

Wand perform “Melted Rope” at the Echo on 01.10.20.

That’s all I’ve got for tonight. Below, I’ve included Wand’s setlist for their Echo show on 01.10.20. It’s a well-rounded curation of a deceptively large and diverse catalogue. I’ve been listening to it steadily, and it’s got a great ebb and flow.

On a side note, I’ve heard the previous night’s performance featured a partially different selection of songs, somewhere close to half the show being unique. I’m sure that would’ve been a terrific experience, as well. And in a safer world, one that could’ve been repeated, or expanded upon, at a near-future date.

I guess we’ll just have to wait for this pandemic to play out and the world to heal itself. In the absence of live music, I hope you’ve enjoyed this reminiscence of Wand at the Echo. Stay safe and good night.