Glastonbury Welcomes The Wood Burning Savages
Derry~Londonderry four-piece prepare to play the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury
Lead vocals and guitar, Paul Connolly. Shea Tohill, lead guitar. On bass, Dan Acheson. And on drums, the mighty Aaron McClelland. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...The Wood Burning Savages.
Or something like that. On Friday, June 27, at 1.45pm, on the BBC Introducing Stage, The Wood Burning Savages will play their biggest gig to date: the iconic English music festival, Glastonbury.
It doesn’t get much bigger than that, and Connolly and co are rightly and unashamedly excited at the prospect. 'I can’t wait,' says Connolly. 'It’s like all our Christmases have come at once. If I had a time machine, I’d go there now.'
Acheson shares the anticipation. 'We’ve got a set we’ve been drilling. People want to be blown away, and we’re going to have our foot down for the full 25 minutes.'
They’re an interesting bunch, The Wood Burning Savages. Probably the hottest unsigned band in Northern Ireland right now, they’ve been lauded and championed by BBC 6Music’s Tom Robinson, who described them as 'the most amazing live band I’ve seen all year – bar none. End of.'
Their live sets pulse with energy and pace, a flurry of combination punches: raw, driving, driven, delivered by a frontman whose voice has the passion and resonance of John Lydon in his early PiL days. But without the sneer.
That’s important. This is a rock band which doesn’t sneer, doesn’t belittle, doesn’t lecture. They don’t stand above. They stand alongside, albeit at a slight remove. Connolly is a reader – Wilde, Flann O’Brien, Spike Milligan, Brendan Behan, currently – and his lyrics attempt the same combination of honest observation and manoeuvring of language.
'Boom' is a song about growing up in the tail end of the Troubles. 'Lather, Rinse, Repeat' concerns OCD, written in support of a mental health charity. 'Our songs are about saying we’re all people, regardless of religion, beliefs and geography,' Connolly reveals.
'Any band is a time capsule, and what we try for is a documentation of what people are going through now.' Acheson adds, 'We go for the marginalised in our songs.'
It’s little wonder Tom Robinson (himself a musician) likes them and, more importantly, understands them – he did the same with the Tom Robinson Band. So did Elvis Costello and the Attractions, and Graham Parker and the Rumour.
Those artists sang about injustice and minorities with a rigour and energy, while making sure that their audiences finished every gig drenched in sweat, knowing they’d been entertained by a band that meant it. The Wood Burning Savages do that too.
The band might be a time capsule for now, but there’s a lot about them that recalls punk and new wave. They can hold tensions in their work. Their songs are crafted and raw, immediate and considered, articulate, intelligent, angry, compassionate, forceful and tender, assured and off-the-cuff.
They are a committed, politicised, sincere rock band who want their audience to be drained and entertained. Rock, punk, psychedelia, new wave... it’s all there, with the odd sweet and steely harmony of a song like 'Flu Season' thrown in as a surprise. 'So much music today is too doctored and overdone. We want to get energy in the room,' says Acheson. 'We like energy.'
The Wood Burning Savages are a band that belongs to Derry~Londonderry. Maybe they won’t always be there, but they will always be from there, a product of the best elements of the city.
'There’s an open arms policy in Derry,' according to Connolly. 'There’s a rebel streak and a humbleness and a feeling that we’re all in it together. Derry feels invested. We’ve been helped by many and we try to give back.'
The Wood Burning Savages formed in late 2011. Since then they’ve not stopped – writing, rehearsing, creating, touring, performing. They’ve been – they are – relentless. They’re right and ready now. Melody, power, passion, compassion. Glastonbury won’t know what’s hit it.
The Wood Burning Savages play Glastonbury on June 27, the Stendhal Festival, Limavady on August 8 and the Volume Control Festival, Belfast on August 23.