They were born at St. Olaf College in 1992 as a jam band with a name inspired by a Tom Hanks movie about a volcano. Since then, they’ve been a mainstay on the Minnesota music scene.
Listeners might wonder what they’re getting themselves into with adventurous December 2018 release We Are Young, We Are Old. My response was to turn up the volume, and I’m grateful that I did. The Big Wu make the best kind of waves.
We Are Young, We Are Old continue the Big Wu‘s 26-year career of originality. Their foundation is how tight the band is. The current lineup of Chris Castino (guitar/vocals), Terry VanDeWalker (drums, vocals), Andy “Padre” Miller (bass/vocals), Al Oikari (keyboards/lapsteel), and Mark Joseph (guitar/vocals) are a well-oiled machine. They predict the next musical move made by the others and expertly react in a way that moves the music forward. Their unique sound includes ell-executed harmonies, rich guitar tones, driving bass lines, well-placed keyboard melodies, and driving, subtle drums.
The album opens with “Young Pioneer.” The perfect opening track moves the listener along with its energetic feel. Although it’s particularly effective, none of the other tracks are like it, and that’s the beauty of We Are Young, We Are Old.
The album spans a wide variety of genres. Poppy “Young Pioneer“ is followed by mellow, moody “Kick in the Head,” which features Big Wu’s Terry VanDeWalker providing music to lyrics from longtime Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan contributor Robert Hunter. “Ready to Burn” opens with a heavy rock guitars, and the rest of the album features a varied mix of country, blues, R & B, folk, rock, soul, and jazz.
“We Are Trees“ is both the closing track and the first single from We Are Young, We Are Old. Lyrics like “time doesn’t mean much to me/we are young/we are old/we have tales to be told/we are not what we were…” are a good definition of what The Big Wu represents. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The years may have changed the band, but the music still remains as true as it ever has.
The Big Wu will host an 18+ album release show Dec. 29 at 8:30 p.m. at The Fine Line in Minneapolis with special guests Mikel Wright and the Wrongs.