The girls in ambient pop trio Stonefox waved goodbye to a fairly heaving crowd at the newly renovated Northcote Social Club on Saturday night. The wolf was to follow the fox. As a staffer struggled with the thick curtains, the distinctive silhouette of Chris Panousakis aka Timberwolf set against a fiery orange backlight, burst through.
His Grecian profile, Michael Hutchence hair and bloated denim bomber jacket came into full view, flanked by his small band and the black-on-black walls and gold trims of the refurbished band-room. Moody guitar noise erupted from his red axe and a wall of amplifiers, settling into the gentle folk-rock ambience of ‘Stranded’.
Timberwolf’s powerful vocals echoed around the room, grappling for volume over the music as he confessed “And I left you on your own, and I know I let you down.” His voice strained and soared expertly towards the end as he hit a husky emotional climax in the lyrics, supported by an eerie, echoey solo guitar lick that imitated a bird call.
We were treated to some brand new tracks early, with working title rock-ballads ‘Benny’ and ‘Shattered Glass’ second and fourth respectively in the setlist. EP Flux was to make up half of the setlist, and it wasn’t long before raunchy romp ‘Whiskey Jar’ made its popular appearance. Exploring sexual fantasises and intoxicated late nights, the Adelaide native’s distinctive Australian twang paired with gentle guitar pings and chimes created a deliberately naughty and unsettling mood.
Travel, restlessness and fleeting romances are all prevalent themes, and 23-year-old Timberwolf took the time to riff on all three in-between songs. Drawing on things as diverse as “lots and lots of drunken sex” to being vulnerable around women, it was clear that these subtle notes struck a chord with fans. Some young women up the front even took it upon themselves to their own trade experiences. During the song. Great when that happens, isn’t it?
In keeping with the sexy guitar, a cover of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Wanna Be Yours’ was an apt half-time choice. The dreamy and languid refrain of the chorus saw the crowd croon in response, watching on with misty eyes in a state of romanticised and tipsy wistfulness.
Flux’s ‘Fallen Sun’ is a hypnotic exploration of inner conflict. The wonderfully woeful and cinematic swell and energy is best translated live, and reinforced by Timberwolf’s deeper and darker textured voice. The opening “ooh’s” and “aaah’s” were unaccompanied by regular touring buddy Maggie Rutjens for a change, and although the male-female harmonies were missed, the moody landscape was enough to set the scene all the same. Timberwolf wailed through the second verse with poetic urgency alone, but equally commanding.
First ever single ‘Garden’ made the musician nostalgic, as he contemplated how far he’d come in the musical landscape. When he’d first performed the song in Melbourne a couple of years back, it was to a handful of people at The Worker’s Club, and now, it was to an almost packed bunch at the NSC.
As an entertainer, Timberwolf kept the songs and stories rolling over. He encouraged people to clap, sing-along and “bump bums” during the songs that lent themselves to a blues-rock slow groove. A luscious blend of daydream melodies and dark, quietly melancholic soundscapes, Timberwolf’s music is the perfect escape from the dull and dreary humdrum of day-to-day life. He swapped excited smiles with his well-rehearsed bandmates, and saluted the drinkers in the crowd with a very anti-rock n’ roll cup of tea.
As the familiar Timberwolf swell of electric guitar and percussion kicked in, our anticipation and expectations were flipped on their head as the band launched into the opening lyrics of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Edge of Seventeen’. “Just like the white winged dove,” burst though and the crowd joined in on “sings a song, sounds like she’s singing, ooh ooh ooh.” Just as we thought we were going to get a full rendition of the song, EP opener ‘It Burns’ erupted at the tail end of the verse. The layered aesthetics and lullaby vocals made for a fitting gig closer, complete with continuous ‘Edge of Seventeen’ interruptions.
Timberwolf cooed with languid effortlessness over the music, complemented by ethereal moans and harmonies with his long-haired guitarist. “Darling it hurts and I think it burns” lingered on as an oddly optimistic mantra, as the crowd clapped out the encore-less set. Timberwolf has well and truly arrived.