“You would never have seen so few people for the Wombats back home,” breathed my friend from Sarstedt, Germany yesterday. We had just reached the back aisles of the Electric Fetus, home to a “special acoustic performance” and signing hosted by the record store and The Current; the band is too popular for such intimate shows in Germany, so she counted herself lucky to be in Minneapolis during the band’s tour stop. Later, at the Varsity Theater, my friend turned around between songs just to grin at me—the Wombats’ show was a delight for her and a sold-out theater of fans.
In town for the fourth time, Liverpudlian band the Wombats put on a bombastic concert at the Varsity. The band are on tour supporting their new album Glitterbug, released on April 13. They played nearly every track on the album, and they clearly still enjoy playing songs from This Modern Glitch, which came out in April 2011. Both Glitch and Glitterbug bring pop elements to the table, and fans at the show hopped around to the synth intros and catchy bass lines. Murphy introduced “1996” with a smirking, “Get nasty!” Drummer Dan Haggis encouraged fans to “scream and bounce as much as you’d like.”
Haggis was drumming on an elevated platform, so stage banter soon turned to how “high” he was in comparison with everyone else, then took a detour: “I feel like bringing you gifts,” said Murphy. “You should! Gifts, sacrifices,” Haggis returned. Murphy pretended to scan the crowd and asked, “Does anyone have a lamb? Or at least a cow? A cow, anyone?”
Back in 2011, the band members told the story behind “Techno Fan” and their early days at The Current’s studios. They returned for a 2012 Theft of the Dial, and they’re locally making waves again with the new album’s release. They certainly won a few hearts after playing “Patricia The Stripper” on a request from a fan at the Fetus. “We haven’t practiced,” they said, “so whoever you are, this is your fault!”
“Headspace” is a particularly ’80s-inspired post-break-up song from Glitterbug that the crowd sang back to the band. Murphy pointed at the Varsity’s hanging disco balls during the lyric, “Cause now I feel, feel, feel like a disco ball,” and the lighting crew responded by flipping on the effect. It took Murphy aback for a moment, and he thanked the Varsity staff for it. “That was really sweet.”
When the Wombats dug into more gritty tracks like “The English Summer” and “Let’s Dance to Joy Division,” a mosh pit of mostly youngish boys exploded in the center of the main floor. Generally speaking, the crowd brought an energy that the band surely appreciated—their fervor lent a special sense to a setlist full of hits they’d performed dozens of times over the years. Bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen also gave himself over to the music, backpedaling and careening toward the microphone like he’d been launched from a catapult.
Back to the signing at the Fetus, those who attended enjoyed a sampling of new tracks—the Wombats played Glitterbug singles “Your Body Is A Weapon,” “Greek Tragedy,” and “Give Me a Try.” After they delivered disarming harmonies (“Give Me a Try”) as well as a few punch lines (Murphy: “We’re going to play two more songs from Glitterbug, which you’ve already heard thousands and thousands of times by now”), the band took their places at the head of the signing line.
At the record store, the Wombats went above and beyond. After a 12-hour drive from Indianapolis, the grind of touring had to have been affecting them; regardless, they took the time to chat with every fan and even posed for photos. “You’re worth it!” interjected Murphy while describing their wild schedule at the show.
Today, the Wombats visited The Current’s studios again; listen to their session, and see photos and video, here.
Writer Cecilia Johnson is studying English and Spanish at Hamline University. Her favorite things include breakfast food, guitar solos, and Janelle Monáe. Steven Cohen is a photographer living in Minneapolis.