It’s been a good year for Wunderhorse. The indie four-piece rocked a sold-out O2 Ritz, following up a successful festival season featuring performances at Glastonbury Festival, Latitude Festival, and a support slot at Sam Fender‘s homecoming at St. James’ Park. On this new run of dates, the party continued. They return to Manchester after high-profile support slots across the city, and a headline show at The Deaf Insitute.
Wunderhorse bestow a striking natural chemistry amongst themselves. Glances of jubilance were offered amongst the four-piece after taking to the stage in response to the sold-out crowd’s roars; the indie newcomers won’t have a hard time getting used to it.
It’s hard to imagine a time where, absent of members Jamie Staples, Pete Woodin, and Harry Fowler, Wunderhorse existed initially as a solo project. The project came about at a time when frontman Jacob Slater was seeking to abandon his post-punk past, as a member of the band The Dead Pretties, and reinvent his musical output. Wunderhorse became the inevitable next step for Slater, as he opted to write the band’s debut album Cub based on his own personal and artistic revelations during this time, favouring grungy guitars and psychedelic elements. This was brought to life by the band onstage, greater than the sum of their parts.
Whilst Cub certainly sees a shift in Slater’s songwriting, exuding profound lyrics with an emphasised maturity, the album is not entirely absent of the post-punk influence which steered his early career. ‘Leader of the Pack’, a favourite amongst fans, was the band’s song of choice for getting the gig off to an energetic start. Packed with gritty, raw guitar, almost reminiscent of Nirvana’s Nevermind, the song also opts to call upon Slater’s punk past with hard-edged melodies.
These punk undertones were enhanced live, in performance, aided by Slater settling on shouting the lyrics towards the end of the song reciprocating the passion of the booming audience. Slater’s background made a point of showing up throughout the show, Wunderhorse’s performance consuming him, egged on by the louder-than-usual Wunderhorse crowd.
These harsher, shoutier moments enabled songs such as ‘Butterflies’, which appeared early on in the set, to gain a new dimension live. With lyrics detailing love and betrayal, Wunderhorse are raw and relatable.
‘Teal’, a grungy cut of the Wunderhorse’s discography, notably made for a gig highlight. The reverberating, repetitive guitar loop at the heart of the tune provided a backing track as the crowd echoed the lyrics to the now infamous bridge. Naturally, the lighting turned the namesake colour of the song, going on to turn purple in introduction to the chilled, uplifting indie song ‘Purple’.
Lyrics of the song see Slater reference the importance of creating a safe space for those who are vulnerable or struggling with mental illness. This went on to make for an empathetic moment of unison amongst the crowd, currently blanketed by a safe space created through the escapism enabled by live music. ‘Purple’ created full-circle comfort, one which defined the importance of live music in real-time, all whilst simultaneously giving a warm introduction to a bittersweet encore.
‘Poppy’ was the song of choice to round off the four-piece’s immense set. Echoing the riffs of The Stone Roses‘ John Squire, the song distorted and played on psychedelia. The closer was complete with an extended outro, transcending the audience all whilst showcasing the boundless musical facets which define Wunderhorse as a band. They won’t be indie music’s best-kept secret for much longer.