Under a glistening mirror ball, RGM had the pleasure of witnessing Wunderhorse’s vibrant gig at Manchester’s Deaf Institute on Friday night. Fresh off a tour supporting alt-rock greats Pixies, Wunderhorse is coasting through their sold-out headline U.K. & Ireland tour. The Deaf Institute is known for its intimacy and the connection that it fosters between the audience and the performer. Due to the small size and the packed crowds, the dome-shaped venue is a welcoming host to rising acts. Catching Wunderhorse here, before they headline the Ritz in October, was captivating. The experience was enhanced by the palpable connection between Wunderhorse and their enthusiastic fans, an atmosphere that can tend to become absent in bigger venues. 

Support came from Sun-King who skilfully commanded the small stage: charismatic, multi-instrumentalist, and an exciting band to watch out for. Gliding between funky riffs and mellow vocals, the members always smiled at each other as they played, bouncing off of one another’s talent. 

As I was watching Sun-King perform, Jacob Slater cruised into the crowd to show his support. Nestled in between fans, he danced and cheered for Sun-King. An extremely refreshing sight to see and an exciting moment for the crowd when they realised that he was there. Saying hello, taking photos, and fist-bumping members of the crowd, a dynamic was created not of performers and fans but of a cohesive community enjoying music together. This vibe was echoed throughout the night as members from Sun-King encouraged the crowd “to come for a chat” and passed on their guitar picks to waving arms.

Wunderhorse came to the stage, doused in a kaleidoscopic mix of strobe lights, and played stunningly to a packed-out venue. Cheers, screams, and shouts of encouragement like “go on Jacob,” radiated loving energy between Wunderhorse and their audience. 

A sleek transition from Slater’s former punk band, Wunderhorses’ debut album Cub is a reflective and introspective catalogue. Cub features lovingly creative reminisces to great artists of the 90s, both sonically and lyrically. With influences from Elliott Smith, Jeff Buckley, and Radiohead, (to name a few), on songs like ‘Mantis,’ and ‘Girl Behind The Glass,’ Slater’s influences shine through emphatically. As a lover of 90s grunge, slow-core, and alt-rock myself, I was excited to see Wunderhorse and fascinated to observe the collaborative effort made by Slater to weld his musical influences into an array of sounds and lyrical stories that stand firmly in his creation.

From the haunting, melodious vocals on ‘Poppy’ which effortlessly seam into a cacophonous instrumental finale (with clear touches of The Stone Roses) to the blues-rock guitar on ‘Leader of the Pack’,  Wunderhorse present an electric exposition that kept the audience intent and engaged on them throughout the set. For a Gen-Z-dominated crowd, I smiled as I caught many moments where only a handful of phones were up. The majority of the audience was present and focused, flowing in an enjoyable symphony with Wunderhorse

Slater’s voice (even though he said he was “sick as a dog”) invites attention with his versatility and natural talent. Throughout the set, the band looked as if the music was physically pulsating through them; so enrapt in the music and the emotion that is fundamental to Wunderhorses’ sound. 

Interacting with the audience, Jacob encouraged the crowd casually as he said, “it’s alright to move ya know,” and – as if unleashed by his energy – the audience erupted into mosh-pits and crowd surfing to the energetic ‘Teal.’ The crowd moved slowly to songs such as ‘Butterflies,’ and ’17’, sang audibly to the chorus of ‘Purple,’ and animated themselves profoundly towards the end of the set. 

Jacob Slater doesn’t leave behind the rawness of his previous pursuit but bleeds it together with a delicacy that makes Wunderhorse an interesting and emergent force, and certainly, a joy to see live. Performances like these are stimulating and enlivening; they remind you why you love live music. 

Wunderhorse are continuing their tour around the U.K and Ireland this Spring before headlining bigger venues in major U.K cities this October. 

Set list:

1. Butterflies

2. Girl Behind The Glass

3. Leader of the Pack

4. 17

5. Mantis

6. Arizona

7. Purple

8. Morphine

9. Oprah Winfrey (Is this Love)

10. Teal

11. Poppy

📸 Pics by Courtney Turner and words by Lauren Chadwick