I hadn’t heard a lot of Wild Child before Saturday. But one look at the audience, and I knew exactly where I was. There was a comfort, a cheerful warmth at The Ark, Ann Arbor’s staple folk venue, on Saturday night. What started as sweet serendipity quickly turned into one of the best indie folk experiences of my life.
Clad in Halloween costumes ranging from simple mustaches to the “Ann” of Ann Arbor, the Austin-based, seven-piece band wove every sad story on their discography into a saga of forgiving and moving on.
“Victim to Charm,” from Wild Child’s 2011 release The Runaways, harmoniously blended vocalists Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins with a powerful mix of violin and cello. In seconds, the venue was glued to every word. The strings echoed just long enough after every verse ended to keep everyone feeling privy to the magic shared on The Ark stage. “Break Bones,” from Fools, the group’s latest album, darkening lyrics were almost inappropriately masked in an infectious piano-backed melody, which made me take until the end of the song to question how I was feeling.
It didn’t take long for the entire venue to catch on to the familial joy being thrown around stage. For “Cocaine Hurricane,” not a single person shied away from trying to catch all the childish syllables of the song in a single breath. As “Crazy Bird” ‘s familiar introductory riff hit cellist Sadie Wolfe’s bass strings, the crowd was visibly awakened.
Lead vocalist Kelsey Wilson has the ability to bring peace to sadness and weave melancholia into just another memory. The rather unusual harmonies between ukulele, cello and violin — held together by Wilson’s salient vocal — spread to every corner of the Ark, making it impossible to not share joy with every other fan in the sold-out venue.
“You feel like you’re together in something — like you’re experiencing the whole thing together. It’s a family therapy with a lot of dancing,” Wilson said of her music on the band’s website.
Therapy is right. Two hours later, I felt refreshed. Maybe, I felt, this is what music was created to be. An outlet for all the weight we feel on a day-to-day basis. A place where secrets become just another story, and struggles become something to be cherished and learned from.