Chappaqua Wrestling were in Bristol on May 22nd.
Since their formation in 2018 – spearheaded by principal songwriters (and guitarists) Jake Mac and Charlie Woods – Chappaqua Wrestling have built up a solid bank of songs influenced by shoegaze, grunge, and, unashamedly, Britpop.
With the release of their debut album Plus Ultra in April, attention now turns to consolidating and building their fanbase and, based on this performance, they have the steely determination to go all the way.
In contrast, support act Nature TV, while competent and polished, have no aspirations to set the scene for the headliners, with their songs of woe (in their defense, they describe themselves as ‘Door-to-door heartbreak salesmen’) a strange fusion of Dire Straits and Two Door Cinema Club. In the right mood, Nature TV are undoubtedly capable of relating to someone, but raucous pop ‘n’ roll it is not.
That said, it soon becomes apparent that having the fellow Brighton band go first is a shrewd move, as they wisely preserve the crowd’s energy for Chappaqua Wrestling.
Opening track Fair Game dreamily pulses into life, keyboardist Coco Varda alone on the stage for a minute or so until her bandmates join her to tear into a slab of clattering indie rock.
Kulture follows, all grinding guitars and stabbing chords with Mac on lead vocals as on the opener. The group makes no bones about social commentary and the hook line of, ‘they only need your culture when they need you’, is a withering take on Brexit Britain.
Woods takes over lead vocals for the remainder of the set and sneers accordingly on the abrasive and anthemic Wayfinding and it’s here, with the steely determination in their eyes and the clenching of their jaws, that the set ramps up and proves they mean business.
Although Mac and Woods are the driving force, Chappaqua Wrestling are by no means a two-man operation: Varda sprinkles her keys across the set and even takes vocals on the swaying Not In Love, adding some much-needed femininity to contrast with the growl of the two singers.
Bassist Jude Lilley is unassuming but holds everything together – Full Round Table in particular – which he dominates against some real sky-scraping guitar, while drummer John Paul Townsend radiates eccentric cool in his orange shades which, despite his best intentions, remain on his face throughout.
Lilley also takes centre stage on the two-part My Fall, the quite beautiful elegance of the second half contrasting against the emotional brashness of part one, likewise The Rift, which marauds menacingly towards a big finish, the brusquest shoegaze you’ll ever hear.
Their experience on the road shows with reliable tricks deployed: Woods regularly asks the crowd routine questions (‘Who’s heard our album?’, ‘We need your help with this one’, etc) but is also treated to a rendition of Happy Birthday by the audience.
Most winningly of all, Mac gets the crowd on their knees in preparation for a riotous Need You No More, perhaps their biggest song and a successful fusion of Mod and Oasis.
With such tricks of the trade, a gritty resolve and songs that were clearly written for the big stage, Chappaqua Wrestling are only going one way.