Where Donovan Wolfington's set at the Republic Tuesday night went wrong, and how it could've gone right.
Donovan Wolfington were nervous. The indie punk band, opening for Girlpool and Alex G at the Republic, had started their set with “Locust,” a menacing song that relishes in a drawn-out heavy metal breakdown, and immediately followed up with the frenetic head-banger, “Hxc Punk.” They were keeping the audience on edge and attentive, which put them in a powerful position. When one of the guitarists broke a string, it felt fitting and raw. The audience cheered their support. However, over the course of the set that fractured guitar string came to represent the kinks Wolfington still has to work out.
The frequent pauses to retune guitars, replete with narration and interjections about “buying our shit,” led to a slump in the crowd’s energy and engagement. For some inexplicable reason, despite great lights and sound quality, the venue felt awkward, too. As one band member commented, perhaps it was due to the fact that, “A lot of great rappers have been on this stage, but not too many rockers.” The Republic was the long-time home of The Howlin’ Wolf before the Wolf moved to its current location in 2006, and through the 1990s, it was one of the city’s top rock venues, but in recent years it has developed a definite tilt towards DJs and hip-hop acts.
Despite the issues with context and interludes, when they played, the band sounded really good. “Mercurus,” a cut from their album, How to Treat the Ones You Love, was a highlight for its upbeat tone that subverted, and consequently amplified, the cancerous approach to love and second chances that the song describes. Earlier, “Ollie North,” which recently received a video treatment, was definitely a peak during the set. The lyrics are some of the best on the album, “It’s hard to tell / when all your friends live in hell / try to relate, but you can’t take the smell… It’s a disgrace / It’s a castration of the thrill and the chase / Look alive / And open my eyes / Get alone.”
Ultimately, with a solid album pressed and released, if Wolfington can get comfortable handling the unexpected and improve their crowd management, they could become a formidable force on the New Orleanian indie punk scene.