By Chad Swiatecki
Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 12, 2013
Jordan Cook knows that it takes a lot to win over audiences in Austin. Calling the city "almost spoiled" because of the sheer number of touring musicians that cycle through the city each year, Cook says the city’s reputation as a live music hotbed makes the cheers and praise he’s received at shows in the last week all the more special.
"Those crowds are just on top of it and they’re almost spoiled because of all the great musicians who have come through there," Cook said by phone the day after a searing and packed show at The Continental Club that saw him peeling waves of metallic-blues feedback from his guitar and (sometimes simultaneously) bashing away at a drum setup.
"The crowds in Texas have been ready to go from the very beginning and if they’re gonna give it to us, we’re gonna give it right back to them."
That’s what the crowds at the first weekend of Austin City Limits Festival got from Cook, a 29-year-old Canadian guitar virtuoso who performs under the name Reignwolf. Walking out on stage solo he kicked off the head-turning blues of "Electric Love" before his two bandmates joined for most of the rest of the set and added even more power and noise to the proceedings.
It was Cook’s solo moments, though, that made the clearest connection with the audience, many of which walked away from the early Saturday performance uttering "Oh my God!" or something equally exclamatory.
Cook said the response to his stage show has been gratifying in a day when rock-based acts have a tough time winning over younger audiences. The early returns from last Saturday put him in the company of Kendrick Lamar and the Blind Boys of Alabama in terms of ACL Fest acts that earned near unanimous praise.
"I’m really honored and blown away, and I can’t say I’m used to it, especially since rock and roll isn’t really the hotbed in terms of what people are into right now," he said. "It really feels like we’re on to something."
Part of that comes from the spontaneous feel Cook brings to his shows, going without a set list most shows and calling out changes mid-set to his co-guitarist and drummer.
"I like hanging off that edge," he says with a laugh. "We’ll have an idea for the first couple of songs but the moment you get into being a set list band, it keeps it from getting it to that edge. Thankfully the band are really good about going with me and just seeing what happens."
As Cook moves across the country he’s methodically working on material that will wind up on his proper American debut album – there’s a 2010 Canadian release called "Seven Deadly Sins. While labels have come calling as his star has risen, Cook said he’s fine with remaining independent and building on the fanbase he’s building live.
"I’m not opposed to working with a label, but it’s got to be the right fit and if we can’t find that then we’ll be fine keeping it all done with Reignwolf," he said. "We’d rather go out to fans and then have people to release the album to. The other way feels backward, to not have the excitement of having people in my corner. There’s something great about having the pressure of meeting those people’s expectations."