Gnarwolves – Self-Help Fest (Philadelphia, PA)
It’s 3 PM on a windy Philadelphia Saturday. I pull up to the waterfront and see possibly the largest line I’ve ever seen going up and down Delaware Avenue – a colossal wave of studs, spikes, black jeans, and every hair color imaginable. The one thing I have always loved about going to concerts in Philadelphia is how colorful the crowd, no matter what. This devoted fan base stands ready for the sold out Self-Help Fest. Why is it called Self-Help? I honestly could not tell you. If there was some kind of cause, meaning, or whatever behind the name it is completely lost. Despite numerous internet searches and multiple walks around the perimeter, the name seems to only be a name. (Editor’s note: you can find more festival info here)
As I entered the large outdoor venue, I directly proceeded to the smaller side-stage to catchGnarwolves, my primary focus of this endeavor. It’s always surreal to see a band you’ve listened to before live, regardless of how large or small they may be. The unfortunate thing about these guys is that they may have been screwed over a little at this fest. The side stage was difficult to initially locate and they seemed to be playing before the vast majority of the crowd poured in. This didn’t seem to faze Thom Weeks, their guitarist and front man. The three piece poured all of their energy into the slowly accumulating crowd, most of whom had probably never heard of them before based. The first band never seems to really have a good pit going at any show, but this didn’t stop a large handful of fans from having a nice little circle pit.
The thing that most impressed me about this band is how great they sounded despite hitting that stage raw as hell. Not a single pair of in-ear monitors could be found on any of the three members while they tore it up on stage, but they didn’t seem to miss a beat! I absolutely loved their self-titled release, an album they proudly announced was their first American release, and their live show faithfully replicated their studio sound. Many bands require backing tracks, click tracks, and other post-production-help to make their sound nice and full – this does not apply to Gnarwolves however. I was also very impressed by their interaction with the audience. Some bands go up on stage and put on a massive show, but sometimes forget that they are still playing to human beings in the end. Gnarwolves were quick to comment back and forth with the crowd if they were yelling out this or that. The overall vibe was very much that of early Blink-182 live performances only with erection jokes in a thick English accent. I really wish more people had the chance to catch their set, but I’m sure it won’t be the last time they play in Philadelphia.