Consistency is key in so many things — survival and life necessities (such as meals and the roof over your head), the products you value, and the quality of the music you fiercely cherish. Wild Child takes this seriously, and it especially comes through in the quality of not only their studio-recorded music, but also in their live shows. When the band took the stage, Wilson walked up to the mic with a huge smile on her face and said, “Chicago! We’re so happy to be back with you all in our favorite room!” Some form of this would be repeated throughout the entire evening, and each time it was said again, the crowd of music-lovers cheered.
On September 17th, 2016 Wild Child took the stage at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. The thing you need to know about Lincoln Hall is that it’s located in the back of a bar, and it’s one of the smaller venues in the city. Which means it’s easy for the performers to interact with the audience, but it’s intimate without being too crowded for the attendees.
Wild Child is an indie folk-rock band based in Austin, TX and consists of six members: Kelsey Wilson (lead vocal, violin), Alexander Beggins (lead vocal, baritone ukulele), Sadie Wolfe (cello), Matt Bradshaw (keyboard, trumpet), and Tom Myers (drums). On their current tour, they’ve added a trombone player (who was unnamed at the show, but he had a great mustache), but he was featured on the new songs they played for the crowd. More on that in a minute.
Starting the set off with a different opening song than on previous tours, “Stones” showcases the quick wit and lyricism that the band is known for. Although the tune abandons the traditional stereotype of “folk,” it’s hard to be upset for too long. The trumpet and trombone were heavily featured throughout, and coupled with how much Beggins and Wilson were dancing around the stage between verses, it’s clear that the confidence level of Wild Child has skyrocketed since the success of their latest album, Fools (10/2/2015 via Dualtone Records).
The third song the group played, “Silly Things,” has been received well especially in the last year at the band’s live performances. Released on their first album Pillow Talk, (independently released in 2011), the tune has since been sped up slightly and now is presented to fans with the pairing of trumpet and trombone — making it better than the recorded version. Even though the song is littered with sad lyrics, (“But a dream is still a dreamer until you wake them up/And sit them down and explain to them/The sky is up and the earth is down amongst other things”), and they sing it all rather quickly, the crowd seemed to know every word. Impressive, especially in their slightly-intoxicated state.
Watch: “Break Bones” – Wild Child
Following “Silly Things,” Wilson asked if it would be okay to try out some new tunes. The audience erupted in shouts of approval, and Wilson followed it up with, “We’re just going to start releasing it. If you keep showing up, we’ll keep making it. Shit. We love you!” The new tune wasn’t named by the band during this performance, but there’s both trumpet and trombone featured heavily (which brings the question: did they add another member to the band, or is this a tour thing?), and the people who fell in love with the Wild Child of a few years ago will be just as satisfied as the fans who fell in love with Fools. The sound quality and tone is similar to most of the tracks on the new record, but the lyrics are fast and witty like some tracks found on on Pillow Talk and The Runaround (the band’s first two albums). Wilson is also wailing some soul into the microphone — something she hasn’t done much of before — but it totally and completely works, and the rest of the crowd at Lincoln Hall agreed, as they screamed in approval at the end of the song. Beggins and Wilson exchanged a look that emoted pure joy, and after an excited chuckle, Wilson exclaimed with a smile, “My face hurts from this damn room!”
Another new tune that was played was given a name — “Alex,” and whether or not that’s referencing one of the frontmen, was not clarified. The song started off with a little dream-like sounds, then it brought it back to what felt more like 2013 Wild Child. Afterwards, Wilson and Beggins started throwing “that’s what she said” jokes around, before diving into one of their classics, “PIllow Talk.” Recorded as a slower-paced song, the group has also made this more upbeat, and added in fragments from the trombone. Throughout the evening, this frequently happened with the older tunes. It sounds like they’ve revamped some of these older songs, sped them up every so slightly, and keep layering in new instruments.
One of the best stories of the night came started with Beggins saying, “So, we got an email earlier today that someone is trying to ask their girlfriend to homecoming…” The presumably teenage boy was then asked on stage, held up a sign asking his girlfriend, Gabi, to homecoming, and the crowd clapped their approval as she said yes, and was dragged onstage by the two vocalists. Wilson couldn’t stop smiling again, and said into the mic, “This deserves shots! But I can’t buy you shots since you’re… going to homecoming.” The celebration of young love was encapsulated in the performance of another Wild Child classic, “Cocaine Hurricane.” Wilson, (who was cracking all of the smart jokes on Saturday), followed it up with “That song is actually about when Alexander and I went to homecoming together… Just kidding.” With lyrics such as: “Whiskey shot, I’d rather not/I already forgot your name/Back of the bar, it’s not that far/You already know this game.”
While playing through their “charting” song, “Crazy Bird,” (which is also littered with more brass instrumentation than in the album version), Gabi’s mom had enough shots delivered to the stage for the whole band to have one. Wilson graciously accepted the tray of liquor during the bridge of the tune, and took her shot before her re-entrance. At the end of the song, Beggins asked, “Are we part of the family now?! YES!” They celebrated with an absolutely incredible performance of “Break Bones,” another one of their slower songs, but the only one performed that night at the speed of the recorded version.
Watch: “Crazy Bird” – Wild Child
Another memorable song was “Take It.” Again, Wilson showcased how much she’s improved as a vocalist since Fools was released, and started wailing into the microphone. The emotion filled the venue to feel sold-out as she belted the chorus “Take it, take it, hear me say this/How but trusting when I’m not around/Break me, or make it, believe me or fake it/Just let it go and love what we found.” Honestly, the album version does the live performance absolutely no justice whatsoever, and it’s really something you need to experience at some point.
More instrumental additions and new songs filled the night, namely on “Someone Else” where Beggins and Wilson change up the ad-lib speaking parts with each tour, and Bradshaw leaves the keyboards behind to come to one of the center mics with a harmonica, and shreds with the air-organ while fans of classic folk cry happy tears a little on the inside.
The regular show ended with the title track of the latest album, “Fools,” also with the addition of the trombone – who was actually the hidden gem — as he was sliding back and forth jamming out to the song that’s propelled the band into more personal music libraries. It also didn’t take long for Wild Child to return to the stage for the encore of “Bad Girl.” Wilson shared a secret with the crowd, “Every night in Chicago is the highlight of the tour.” Again, Lincoln Hall went absolutely mad for the sentiment, and the band finished up their performance with a studio-like sound and more smiles all around.
Watch: “Fools” – Wild Child
Beyond just the pure musicianship, the bantering that continued between the band and the crowd kept the evening performance so entertaining. From a band that was almost hesitant to talk too much in the spring of 2014, to this band who changes up their older music a little bit to reflect the sound they’re going for now, throws around cuss words, and pulls high school students onstage to fulfill homecoming dreams… It’s an absolute pleasure to watch this group grow and progress, and they show no signs of slowing down this consistency — which makes it even better to set the needle in the groove on the pressing of their first record, and really feel how far these fools have come since 2011. It’s wild.