Material: The Wag is unabashedly a throwback to the 1960s, with short and sweet pop songs that are family-friendly. Alicia Van Sant, Brian Ostering and Don Lee all trade off on vocals throughout the set to always keep it interesting. What you get is reminiscent of the Seekers, the Animals, the Turtles and the Monkees. Van Sant has a Grace Slick power to her vocal, so it is no surprise when the group perfectly replicates “White Rabbit” to the astoundment of their audience.
Musicianship: The showmanship starts immediately with a funky rhythm and sound that harkens back to the Music Machine’s hit “Talk Talk.” One of the Wag’s better numbers has a “Cherry, Cherry" Neil Diamond feel to it, with a bouncy bass line from Ostering that gets the patrons dancing. Lee delivers solid solos throughout the set with a clear tone. Overall the band’s mix is excellent, which may be, in part, due to the absence of a full drum kit. Between Strauss’ hand drumming and Van Sant’s tambourine you really aren’t missing a thing. Only when Van Sant drops the tambourine does the sound feel like its lacking. That may be due to the fact that this was such a primary percussion element of music from the '60s, so you definitely do miss it when it’s gone.
Performance: It is clear that everyone in the band enjoys performing, especially Ostering who has the Beatles head bop down. The set varies with tempo changes that take you into the likes of the 5th Dimension and Jefferson Airplane. The group is sure to promote their merch and introduce themselves. Van Sant frequently uses the tambourine as an effective method of encouraging audience participation.
Summary: It is very admirable that the majority of these songs are, in fact, originals with a '60s vibe. While Van Sant solidly delivered on the Jefferson Airplane cover, it would be great to see her mix things up with some Cass Elliott covers. Given their extensive repertoire, this group should never have a hard time landing gigs at theme parties and festivals. While the group is extremely flexible in regards to the styles, they shouldn't mess with their terrific formula. The Wag excels at delivering good old fashioned rock & roll.
The Players: Alicia Van Sant, vocalist, percussion; Arielle Strauss, drums; Brian Ostering, bass, vocalist; Don Lee, guitar, vocalist.
Photos by Erin Brueland