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What a timely visit to Bristol – on the week Wu Lyf (pronounced Woo Life we think) won best new act in the Q awards. While not completely sold out, the gig was full of scenesters. And while the band officially shys away from media attention, it’s kinda clear that’s what pulled in this crowd – many of whom were dressed in NME tees and knew the words to the songs.

Despite this gig being early doors (opened at 6.30pm), the band didn’t take to the stage until almost 9pm by which time enough anticipation had been building. They sauntered on as it they were already the biggest band in the fuckin world and launched into their set. Opening with L Y F, they lived up to their self imposed description of ‘heavy pop’ with some solid drumming, catchy riffs and undecipherable lyrics with dark undertones.

Singer Ellery Roberts has a very distinctive voice, with that ‘need a stiff whisky’ gruffness of say Tom Waits, and the energetic explusion of the words a la Justin from The Vaccines. That’s at it’s most powerful. At other times it’s more like Kings of Leon meets Paolo Nutini. And as well as looking like he was sucking on a lemon for most of the set he had this bizarre tick of poking himself in the eye, tortured genius obviously. Aherm.

The epic Spitting Blood received the most rapturous response and was welcomed with some spontaneous crowd clapping. A powerful indie pop song, with some serious dance potential. The whole set was punctuated with a half-time instrumental piece, and while we’re not dissing Roberts’ vocals it was a welcome addition. With sniffs of Mogwai and Metronomy, it really hit the spot – an epic sounding, ethereal masterpiece. More like that please.

Concrete Gold was possibly the most exciting song on the set, envoking that Terris-esque fervour (for those who don’t know Terris were NME darrlings about a decade ago and had Coldplay support them on tour. They then disappeared into obscurity while their tourmates took over the world. Bull. Shit). Then they pulled an ace from their sleeve with the awesome Heavy Pop, complete with a more urban section where Roberts’ envoked the Itch King Blues approach to gee up the crowd. Brilliant.

As they left the stage, they handed out some of their rider to the crowd – resulting in a massive splurge forward (probably says more about the drinks prices at the Thekla than anything else!). They then committed a cardinal sin. They attempted a cover of Chris Issack’s Wicked Game. Wow. And not in a good way. Why anyone would attempt to cover such an iconic, perfect song is beyond me. They slaughtered it. Putting some distinctly average, grainy vocals over a timeless, heartbreaking tune. Blasphemous.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough to negate the brilliance displayed earlier on in the set. And with just another two UK dates left (London and Brighton), Wu Lyf are off on a world tour and, if you believe the hype they’ve gone out of their way to avoid, when they return they’re gonna be massive – making this gig one of those ‘I was there’ moments.

Words: Laura Williams
Photo: Laura Palmer