By Calli Ferguson | April 27, 2023
The musical synergy Alexander Beggins and Kelsey Wilson find in delicately sung poetry and warm ukulele has drawn people to Wild Child’s music since the release of their debut album, Pillow Talk in 2011. The lyrics can be bittersweet, sometimes sad, but they hold you in their wholeness and in the tender melodies, so you kind of smile anyway. Live, the Austin-based duo is known to invite rooms full of strangers into those vulnerable places their music is made from, and it feels like home.
After spending some time on separate musical projects, Wild Child put out their latest album (and first since Expectations in 2018), End Of The World, earlier this year. While the body of work is totally in keeping with their sonic identity, its release also felt like the first page of Wild Child’s next chapter.
On April 14th, night two of the ‘End Of The World Tour,’ they stopped through New York City for a show at Chelsea’s Racket. Just above the Chelsea Market, you might know the room for formerly housing the Highline Ballroom. Bowery Presents created something in Racket that takes the shape of the previous space, but is lit a little better, sounds a little better, and still has that good, new-venue smell.
As Wilson and Beggins hit the stage, Randy Newman’s “You Got a Friend in Me” instrumentals played over the Racket sound system. And if that wasn’t enough to make the crowd feel immediately at home, they opened with their nostalgic sing-along off their debut, “Pillow Talk.” As they introduced each new band member, “You Got a Friend in Me” queued again.
“Pillow Talk” was just the first of many “old sing-alongs” they played throughout the night. Kelsey Wilson has one of those warm souls; you could sing along with her ‘til the sun comes up. Even behind her Elton-John-style sunglasses, you could feel her looking you in the eye, making everyone feel held in the sweet Wild Child sound. The crowd smiled behind the lyrics of breakup tracks. This is the thing about Wild Child’s world: it leaves room for the bittersweet. It’s a welcoming, peaceful place to sit.
And if that wasn’t true in the first half of the band’s set at Racket, it was when the vocalist appeared through the back doors, walked into the middle of the audience, and had everyone sit criss-cross-applesauce in a big circle around her. We stayed there for a performance of Follow Me. With each chorus, we swayed, listened, and sang along: Would you look at that I think I love your body, you read mine like a book. Oh, that mark that I made upon your shoulder sure gave you a good look. Smiling all the while.
Later in the night, “Dear John” from the new album was another highlight. Like “Expectations” and “Back and Forth,” some Wild Child songs are breakup anthems. A little angry, very empowering, and somehow still smiley. Live, with that energy Wild Child invites us into, songs like that can be even more cathartic in a 700-person venue than in the car with the windows down.
After playing their popular, “Expectations,” they left us with one more of those: the driving title track, “End of The World.” And while it was the end of the night, it was just the beginning of the tour ahead. The beginning of a new world, maybe, where crowds like us across the country were about to be invited home.
📸: shot by Sarah Schneider