Photo by BUFF $LUT

Wounded Lion

Witch Room, Sacramento • Saturday, June 7, 2014

Los Angeles-born band Wounded Lion is infamous for their energetic stage performances. The band has been dominating the L.A. garage-underground scene since their birth in 2005; their goofy, brilliantly minimalist garage-pop style was perfectly executed through their goofy, artistic dispositions. As the band matured, they began drifting more toward the punk side of the garage sound. This greatly appealed to lo-fi loving followers, as this transition naturally assimilated into their audacious performing style.

Wounded Lion is truly one of the best garage-performing bands to this day; they manifest an ability to turn any setting, no matter how obscure, into the perfect canvas for their music. Consider their June 7 performance at Witch Room (the reincarnation of the Bows and Arrows on 19th Street). Witch Room doesn’t aesthetically identify to any specific genre or musical style, yet, Wounded Lion transformed the venue into a garage-pop, lo-fi punk paradise.

The show began with a 4/4 drum stick count in as the guitars struck the initial heavy chord; shortly after, all hell broke lose…and I mean that in the most enjoyable, limitless, eclectic way possible. Wounded Lion, the apparent love child of Cake, Pixies and early Misfits, stood as the messiah leading their audience into a nirvana of psychedelic, garage rock. Wounded Lion harnesses a theme of crunchy distortion carried over repetitive, yet catchy, lyrics. The band’s style is distinct, almost too distinct; they hardly explored beats beyond a duple meter and opted to play in only three out of the 15 key signatures known to music. But hey, this band isn’t playing for the pleasure of music snobs. Instead, they’re playing for those looking to lose themselves and soft-core mosh against some strangers, and the Witch Room audience relished in it.

By the end of the second song, nearly 90 percent of the guests had migrated from the patio to the stage’s border to watch Wounded Lion transform the Witch Room environment. Brad Eberhard (vocals, guitar) would require a call-and-response from his band members, to which the audience joined in once the response pattern was clear. Raffi Kalenderian (vocals, percussion, bass) was perhaps the most captivating of the group; his electric mannerisms may have contributed at least 50 percent of the energy the band provided, which was quite impressive considering how dynamic each musician was.

Each member plays a variety of instruments; Lars Finberg (drums, guitar), Shant Kalenderian (guitar, bass, vocals) ad Jun Ohnuki (bass, drums, organ, percussion) would quickly swap their instruments between each song. Despite Wounded Lions’ obvious technical abilities, their tambourine skills were the most memorable of the performance. This is due to a variety of ways to which the tambourine was played; some members would slam it onto the ground, sometimes playfully onto other band members or even onto unused instruments to create different resonances. The band is remarkably innovative when it comes to instrumental manipulation; for instance, the audience absolutely lost its shit when the bass drum was brought to the front of the stage, tilted horizontally and beat with maracas.

Some may argue that the band’s disposition and musical character may have been a bit sloppy, but any long-time punk fan would report that their energy and personal sound nailed the essential essence of punk music. CesarIsAPuppy couldn’t have said it more perfectly on, “This band. Last night in Sacramento. Bruises for days. So much fun.” Though the comment was made back in 2011, the meaning still survives. Wounded Lion’s music, just as most garage-punk groups are, is best appreciated when performed live. The band transformed Witch Room into a lo-fi utopia and delivered an incredibly unique experience to their audience. There was this synonymous feeling across the audience of somehow feeling like Hilly Kristal after essentially discovering the Talking Heads; Wounded Lion’s performance was so unique and addictive, it gave everyone a sense of discovery. We’ll see you next time, Wounded Lion. Long live punk.