Editor’s note: This article was originally published May 4, 2014
Chants of "Reignwolf" rose from a sold-out crowd at Stubb’s indoor stage Saturday night as soon as the clock struck 11 p.m. In a crowd humming with energy, one audience member best summarized the hopes of everyone anticipating a payoff for all the buzz Jordan Cook’s band has generated: "Alright, melt my face off."
Reginwolf emerged to a stage stacked with amps like a cityscape behind them. Just enough fog rose in background to give the impression of either something mystical or something burning. (Either would have set the right tone.) Cook is a lumberjack’s Bob Dylan, wrapped in plaid and feral facial hair. Onstage, his shaggy mop serves as both a sweat-catcher and a visual aid to all the head-thrashing that follows when he plays. Perched precariously on top is his head, like any good Pacific Northwesterner, is a black beanie.
The beanie didn’t even make it to the first chorus of the first song before flying off with the power of rock.
Cook committed from the set’s beginning to its end. Not five minutes into the show, a wild-eyed glint shot from him and through the audience. Shredding on songs like "In the Dark," his face twisted into a snarl. Cook screamed like a madman, jaw unhinged and head shaking, but eyes never blinking. Nothing says "blues-metal" like a Saturday night exorcism.
A consummate showman, Cook lived up to the buzz that brought him back to Austin and a sold-out crowd. Halfway through Reignwolf’s set, the other members of the band disappeared and the leader of the pack strutted his stuff. Cook slapped the strings of his instrument percussively and ran an errant string through his teeth like floss. Performing a trick that served him well at last year’s ACL Fest, he sat behind the vacant drum kit with his guitar still in hand and displayed a little simulataneous musical ambidexterity. It actually might have lost a little luster if there had been a microphone to amplify his gravelly yelps of "I’m too young to die."
"Do you mind if we come out to you? Is that alright? IS THAT ALRIGHT?" With that, Reignwolf moved to the front of the stage — rather, Cook dismounted the stage and set up shop with a bass drum in the crowd. Some in the back of the club murmured disappointment at not being able to see the show, but there’s not much point in arguing with a hurricane.
Shock and awe aside, the appeal of a Reignwolf show, and the reason that Cook has built up such goodwill with no album and no real exposure in broader pop culture, is wild talent. Watching Cook attack "Are You Satisfied?" (the closest thing the band has to a signature song) is supremely satisfying, it turns out. As his fingers attacked the frets, his teeth clenched and he shifted his jaw hard to the left. He came right up to the edge of the stage, sweating sliding down his hair and dripping off of the tangled ends as he rasped "Are you satisfied?" right to the fans in front. The voice was powerful and lived in, and the sonics vibrated the room. Even the audience had the bluesy stank face of getting their money’s worth.
When Cook ended the proper set with a cool "Let’s take ‘em home" before kicking the mic stand to kingdom come, one wondered how he would end the impending encore. By the time the guitar he threw after that "one more song" just approached the sound equipment it was about to crash into clear across the stage, one started to feel bad for ever doubting Reignwolf.