It was pouring rain as I skulked into the Astoria late Wednesday evening, finding myself amongst an equally drenched but relatively animated small crowd. Sore Points had just begun their set, a new side project from members of the local Spectres and Nervous Talk, which ended up being a thirty minute energized blitz of heavy chord progression and lilting bass lines, calling up thoughts of Stiff Little Fingers and early work of The Clash.
With just enough time for a beer refill, local power pop band Tranzmitors quickly took to the stage for a rare performance. Filled with tight riffs and sweater jokes aplenty, the four-piece played an infectious set while having a blast the whole way, closing with their number “Dancing In The Front Row.”
Without so much as an introduction, the leading man of the night came on stage: Mr. Wreckless Eric himself, standing at five foot nothing with a white shock of boyish hair, dark shades and black attire on. It has certainly been a few years since his debut, but before any assumptions could be made, he began scrapping with the crowd, cheekily stating, “If you were expecting 1977, then get the fuck out.”
Wreckless Eric, or Eric Goulden, of UK cult punk fame that derived from the movie soundtrack abused 1977 single “Whole Wide World” was most notably aligned with Stiff Records back in the day, along with artists like Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. After a push for songwriting collaborations and backing bands from the label, Goulden grew frustrated and departed from the label in 1980 and continued to produce records independently, including 2015’s album amERICa.
Goulden has proven to stand by his rules from back then, by performing with no backing band while stating how he had driven himself across North America for the tour. The first portion of the set was dedicated to Goulden’s heckling the many talkers towards the back of the venue, showing off his penchant for the word “fuck.”
The dance floor held a handful of rapt listeners as Mr. Wreckless ripped through a near romantic set filled with ballads that told meandering stories of contemplation for the machine that is the American landscape, as seen from the window of a travelling van. Despite sticking to mostly new material, including “Sysco Trucks” and the ghostly “Transitory Thing,” he delivered a sincere rendition of his biggest hit, “Whole Wide World,” with a level of class that you don’t often see from musicians generally known for one song.
Despite a great majority of the crowd’s disposition being wince-worthy, Wreckless Eric proved to be an untethered man of his own rules with a set that was unabashedly politically yet pensive at points. With a modest thank you and one last chirp to the “chatters,” the mighty man stepped off stage and into the dark, onto his next show, proving that Goulden might be one of the last true golden wanderers around.