Following a sporadic handful of shows and festival appearances last year, along with the release of her debut album Juno, Internet funk-pop phenom Remi Wolf embarked on her first proper headlining tour this winter; rolling into New York City’s Webster Hall for two sold out nights last week, the second of which on February 11th we were fortunate to catch. Backed by a three-piece band of guitar, bass, and drums, the singer-songwriter brought a DIY sensibility to her funky pop hooks that brought out an edge to her sound without bringing down the party.
Remi took the stage to an absolutely deafening roar, as her band kicked off into the squelchy funk of Juno lead-single “Liquor Store,” and like a seasoned performer landed at the mic right on beat with the song’s opening refrain, her voice immediately joined by seemingly the entire crowd. The party had begun. With her audience continuing to sing nearly every word along with her, Wolf bounced back and forth across the stage with an explosive energy that perfectly complemented her whacked-out pop songs. Leaning over the edge to deliver a particularly powerful vocal line, rocking out with her guitarist as he wrangled solos out of his instrument like a man possessed, and playing the part of her own hype man as she whipped the assembled mass of fans into a frenzy, Remi worked the stage like she’d been doing this her whole life.
“Ok, so pretty much my goal in life is to have fun all night long” she explained a few songs in, and boy did her show deliver. Remi and the band went full-throttle into the nearly 20-song set and had so much of the crowd jumping by the end that the floor was shaking to the beat of the songs. Even when they weren’t tearing it up on catchy cuts like “Buzz Me In” and “Woo!”, or mashing up 2019 track “Shawty” with Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me,”, they worked to cultivate a real sense of joyousness and positivity in the room. At one point between songs, Remi led the audience in a breathing exercise to help everyone “stay grounded” amid the excitement, and she followed up a blood-pumping version of “Quiet On Set”, which turned the Juno highlight into a full rap-rock rager, by taking a seat behind the drumset to groove with the band while drummer Conor Malloy took the microphone to read “positive affirmations” from his Notes App (they included: “I know how to do my taxes”, “the yogurt I ate was not expired”, and “my makeup is really cool”) which the crowd dutifully repeated.
While her studio recordings don’t necessarily hide her vocal chops, their true extent became even more evident in the slightly stripped-down arrangements her band brought to the table, which gave her more room to flex her heady, soulful rasp and remarkable vocal dexterity without sacrificing an ounce of personality, bringing new liveliness to songs like “Sauce” and “Disco Man”. Comparisons to Janis Joplin came to mind even before her performance of “Liz” transitioned perfectly into a mid-set cover of “Piece of My Heart,” which might just have been one of the strongest renditions of the song this reviewer has seen. But she also displayed a versatility that saw her switch just as engagingly into the talk-sing of “Grumpy Old Man” and the more straightforward pop-rock sound of “Street You Live On”, which got a slower and more spacious treatment, and “Michael,” an exciting and moody new song she debuted that called to mind recent work by Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy.
Remi closed down the show with “Photo ID,” where she brought out musician and actor Dominic Fike to a massive wave of cheers that nearly threatened to drown out the performance. Fike and Wolf’s on-stage chemistry was strong, palling around the stage, their arms wrapped around each other in a headlock, as Fike rapped his verse from the song’s remix and Remi and her band ended the party on a high note before sending the packed house of faithful fans back into the February night with a final “Thank you!”