All photos by Wendy McCardle Photography
On Sunday night, deep within the dark, cavernous walls of Ortlieb’s Lounge, Seattle-based garage rock monster Reignwolf delivered the kind of performance legends are made of—one that transcends the norm of what modern rock sounds like. It’s the kind of show you’ve only read about, from the kind of band that makes you wonder where they parked their spaceship time machine and if they might let you bum a ride.
The heat was already generating from a solid opening set by Philadelphia’s own Satellite Hearts as Reignwolf’s Jordan Cook, clad in a flannel shirt and skullcap pulled tightly over his eyes, quietly took the stage and introduced himself by tearing into “Electric Love,” a blistering guitar riff played while simultaneously stomping out a beat on kick drum. Cook’s blues-soaked vocals feel as though they are pulled not from the diaphragm, but from the very ground upon which we stand, and the crowd was quickly stirred into a frenzy as each song was punctuated with Hendrix-like guitar licks while Cook perched himself high atop an amplifier or drum.
Once bassist David “Stitch” Rapaport and drummer Joseph Braley joined in, the trio launched into a full-blown sonic assault as Cook stomped back and forth across the stage, knocking over drum stands, purposely tearing the strings off his guitar and holding them in his teeth, all the while managing to avoid collision with his band mates in a sort of caveman-like ballet.
The crowd continued to crush tightly toward the stage as the band blasted through “Bicycle” and “Lonely Sunday,” which Cook prefaced by panning the adoring crowd and proclaiming, “it’s not a lonely Sunday tonight. And the bossman asked me if I thought anyone would even show up. Philadelphia, this song is for you.” Just a quick glance around the jam-packed room revealed every person present was smiling like a teenager at their first concert.
As the band finished their set, the entire crowd turned in their direction as though they were ready and willing to follow the band right out the door. Instead, they pleaded for Reignwolf to come back and in a move rarely seen in small clubs, Cook returned to the stage on his own for an encore that included a cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy,” during which he moved behind the drum kit to perfectly maintain a thunderous rhythm while performing a one-handed guitar solo. The rest of the band rejoined to deliver one last knockout punch before leaving the stage looking as though a storm had just blown through, with microphones purposely turned into the amplifiers, keeping everyone dizzied by the glorious mayhem they just witnessed.
Despite ringing ears and weary eyes from standing beneath a shower of blood red lights, one couldn’t help but emerge from that dark, sweaty club feeling reborn. Both Reignwolf and Satellite Hearts deliver raw, fearless and unrestrained rock ‘n roll. It’s classic, but not nostalgic; wild and dangerous, yet full of awe and childlike wonder. Certainly everyone in the room that night left reminded of why they fell in love with music in the first place and as a bonus, one hell of a story to tell their wide-eyed grandchildren someday. — Wendy McCardle