I came to Austin to cover the Austin City Limits festival. The last thing I expected was for an unassuming 29 year-old named Reignwolf, who wasn’t on the bill, to decimate the musical competition across the river from a tiny bar up the street, with a performance that revitalized the magic, passion and explosively reckless talent that first made us fall in love with Jack White so many years ago.
Before Third Man Records, before the split-gender backing bands and Raconteurs/Dead Weather spiderweb developments, Jack White utilized The White Stripes’ minimalist beat architecture to launch an incinerating attack on blues apathy, delivering an instrumental history lesson through machine-gun-heart performances that had fans wide-eyed and screaming maniacally with excitement – not courteously at the conclusion, but during the song. It was an unprecedented bite of visceral in a time when cool was becoming far more important than connection, and moments such as those seemed bound to remain a marker of the raw spitfire passion of what was, before the play-button EDM culture devoured everything we know.
Then, as those around me began to choke in the radiating fog of cynicism, Reignwolf got onstage upstairs at Lamberts on 2nd Street and defibrillated the bloated corpse of what pure Rock passion is supposed to be with four trillion watts of kick drum-stomping, ceiling beam-grinding bloodlust-roaring blues solo freakout madness that defied any expectations I’d ever had about someone on whom I’d already pinned impossibly high hopes. All this, only minutes after that same Mr. Jack White had finished a beautiful grand-orchestration set to headline ACL, an empire overlord who’d unknowingly passed the baton of reckless lava-spewing danger-Rock to a Canadian a half mile away.
I’d heard of Reignwolf before, of course. You may have as well, reading Antiquiet. We’ve shown you how he can take ownership of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain like nobody’s business, his epic impromptu field set at Sasquatch this Summer and a proper full introduction to the man, where I referred to his “explosive, bombastic Saskatchewan blues” – as if I really had any idea what the fuck I was talking about. I’d only seen footage, heard tracks. To see Jordan on video is to appreciate a thin sensory representation which leaves discussion open for internet dissection and debate over quality and authenticity. But to witness it in person is to leave the vicarious-spectator shoreline and swim in the raging ocean waters, fully immersed. Reignwolf is a current that cannot be fucked with, a fierce riptide of beautiful passion and unorthodox versatility that turned a tiny Austin club performance into by far the most incredible moment on a rain-soaked, mud-caked weekend of heavyweights rocking ACL just across the river.
Clearly in high spirits in the final performance on this leg of his current tour, Reignwolf grooved his way through cuts from his upcoming EP, opening with Old Man and In The Dark before a body-hijacking rocker called Bicycle. The mountainously anthemic aspirations of follower The Mandolin Song were only rivaled by the furious grandeur of Palms To The Sky, aided by a tuned-in two-piece backup on guitar (David “Stitch” Rapaport) and drums (Joseph Braley).
Bloodied, sweat-soaked and openly exhilarated, Jordan stumbled off the stage, grinning like he’d just beaten Satan at his own game. What remained behind was a wreckage of instruments and amps, broken strings and cords tangling the lot of it in what Guitar Center might look like after a full-scale earthquake. One can only wonder what the hell the night’s headliner was thinking at that point.
The headliner in question was Willis Earl Beal, an ACL festival player who’s a formidable artist in his own right. The moment was had and the night was sealed, however, when Jordan met the crowd’s roaring demands for one more song. Picking through the wreckage to find a cord to plug in his guitar, he tore out a slow-burn beginning to a grinding, raw Electric Love, singing without a mic, buoyed by the breathlessly captivated energy of the hundred or so in attendance. Stumbling through the instrumental apocalypse and flipping drum equipment to find something to beat on, Jordan played the lead with one hand while beating a corner-balanced drum with the other, before turning the drumstick on the guitar itself:
Many calendars and half-start Rock-champion compromises have passed as I’ve trudged my way through a thousand industry emails a day heralding the Next Big Thing, the act that’s about to become legendary if they can just get their sound out to the right audience. Every day, my inbox dies a thousand deaths, drowning in false-propheteering nonsense with evolving buzz-word clickbait. But I wasn’t pitched on Reignwolf. I discovered him through a friend, as most truly good music is discovered. Because no matter how expensive the promotional campaign, in the end our friends will always be the best filters we have.
And this guy Reignwolf? He’s the real fucking deal.
Get to know Reignwolf at his official site. EP coming soon – and it’s incredible.
Also keep an eye on this kickass Reignwolf fansite.