The Wombats Party at Sold Out Cat’s Cradle
First NC show in seven years
By Steph Cunningham
“My face hurts. Can someone please remove this smile from my face?” These were the thoughts running through my head after seeing The Wombats live for the first time on Monday night at Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle. The Wombats are a band that frequently appear on my Spotify stations, so I was definitely excited that the British band would be stopping in North Carolina for their US tour. I knew I liked them, but I didn’t know their live show would make me love them.
As I walked up to Cat’s Cradle (the new back entrance next to a dilapidated, spray-painted, boarded-up house) I surveyed the other concert attendees. The Wombats have been around since 2003, so I figured there would be a nice variety of people – and I was right. Definitely some Chapel Hill students, but then a good smattering of gray hair to make a nice balance at the show. I even ended up between two groups of British college students and for a moment I felt like I was seeing this show in the band’s hometown of Liverpool. Many of the discussions I heard were actually about the band and the mood felt light and fun; I couldn’t wait for the music.
When The Wombats came out on stage shortly after ten, the crowd went crazy. Their songs are pop-punk, but also have a danceable beat to them. I quickly regretted my choice of heeled booties as I tried to jump up and down with my new British friends. Early in the set they played “Lemon to a Knife Fight,” the first single off their upcoming album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. New song or not, the audience knew every word and were clearly excited to hear it live for the first time. During “Techno Fan,” the lights flashed wildly around the audience and bassist Tord Knudsen ran all around the stage as wildly as the lights. The smile on my face was getting bigger.
The best part of The Wombats show was the band’s interaction with the audience; at times I felt I was having a conversation with old friends and not standing in the middle of a few hundred strangers. Drummer Dan Haggis told a story of a recent show where their singer, Matthew Murray, and Knudsen crashed into each other so hard that Knudsen was bleeding. They asked if he needed a break and he yelled “no!” and continued to jump around. After seeing him run around through the set so far, this didn’t surprise me at all. At the end of a song, Haggis handed Murray a drumstick and Murray told us he’d just “been instructed to hand this out.” As he tossed the stick in to the crowd, he said “watch your eye” in such a British deadpan tone that he caught everyone off guard and made the whole room laugh.
As fun as the guys were to watch and listen to on stage, I must also point out how good they sounded. Murray easily transitioned back and forth between the keyboard and guitar while never missing a note on vocals. During “Pink Lemonade,” Haggis didn’t actually play the drums, but instead drummed different parts of his body; stomach, abs, and head were all props that continued the fun vibes of the night. All three Wombats sang and provided a great array of harmonies, taking full advantage of the excellent sound quality in Cat’s Cradle.
Near the beginning of the show, Murray mentioned that it had been almost seven years since they’d played Cat’s Cradle. He asked if anyone there that night had been at that previous show and about ten people yelled a yes in response. I guarantee they were telling the truth and I can say for certain that many of the folks there Monday night will be at their next show as well – smiled and all.
The Wombats continue their US tour through January, ending in Seattle on the 31st. They are supporting Weezer and The Pixies this summer throughout the US.
January 19 Kansas City, MO
January 20 Notre Dame, IN
January 22 Denver, CO
January 23 Salt Lake City, UT
January 25 Los Angeles, CA
January 26 Santa Ana, CA
January 27 San Francisco, CA
January 29 Portland, OR
January 30 Vancouver, Canada
January 31 Seattle, WA