Wavves - Hoxton Square Bar and Grill, London 06/06/12
Aren't gig friends just the best? For those unfamiliar with the experience it is sort of like a one night stand for music enthusiasts; you pretty must spark up conversation about various albums and festivals you have enjoyed and then go your separate ways. Looking thoroughly out of place among the swathe of denim jackets, crewneck sweaters and snapbacks, my new friend, whose name already escapes me, quickly conversed over big, mean music promoters, our love of ATP and everything in between. This is why small venues like the Hoxton Square Bar and Grill, where Wavves are playing tonight, are so much nicer than somewhere like Shepherd's Bush where you are funnelled into the venue between tall barriers while an army of men in high-vis jackets oversee proceedings.
But anyway, you didn't click here for an essay about small venues! Tonight promises to be wild with the anticipation for the Californian band's live show mounting hours before they are set to come on. Support comes from Parakeet, featuring Yuck's Mariko Doi and The History of Apple Pie's James Thomas, who put on an energetic and noisy set with some furious guitar feedback and some distorted bass notes making the sound blend into a eclectic and fuzzy mess (I'm using that noun in a good way). Mariko discloses this is only their second show which is amazing considering how tightly these guys are. Her harpy vocals nicely sit within the band's gritty 90's grunge sound. Wavves have some big shoes to fill because Parakeets are a force to be reckoned with.
I can see Wavves thriving in this dark small room with a crowd which is wooping and cheering before the band even take the stage and they do not disappoint. Rolling onto the stage and checking it is sufficiently stocked with booze Nat Williams and co. strum every string on every guitar on stage regardless of whether it sounds in keeping tonally with the other members in classic slacker spirit. Beginning with the anthemic tune that is 'King of the Beach' the crowd is actually unhinged mentally; the Wavves can hardly be seen over the forest of flailing arms. With a mammoth noise the band throw themselves about like they have consumed a great deal of stimulants, something which didn't end up going so well for Williams at the 2009 Primavera Sound festival. Luckily there is no such band punch up tonight and the Wavves seem like teenage boys messing about in a practice room and cracking jokes. Having broken strings within the first two songs this doesn't deter Nat from leaping about while they run through recent single 'I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl' though I am concerned they are playing all their crowd pleasers at the start of the gig and will run out of steam though having said that, the band has an unbelievable amount of energy like men that are possessed by spirits frantic to get out. Ex Jay Reatard bassist Stephen Pope looks effortlessly cool with his mop head hair and flying v bass in the centre of stage with Nat on his left, still pulling the most crazy 'reaching out to grab the lead singer' fans, most of them being female in gender. After just 3 songs they have already sweat gallons. Nat's interactions with the crowd are great at one point he offers to marry a girl in the front row and even dedicates a song to a fan whose birthday is that day.
As presumed the next few songs do not gain the same absolutely crazy crowd reaction that occurred during the start, a problem when you play your biggest songs first. Nevertheless the band's energy cannot be faulted at all with the entire band putting so much into every song in a truly Herculean testament to physical stamina. 'Linus Spacehead' reignites the crowd into a fist pumping frenzy with its concrete-solid bass line and raging drums. 'In The Sand' off the band's new EP Life Sux starts off well but by the end the crowd is thoroughly worm out unlike the slacker four-piece which relentlessly go on. My personal favourite 'Bug' sees the band tone down their on stage antics but the catchy-as-hell guitar riff and chorus sees the crowd go wild yet again. Wavves could play literally anything and this adoring crowd would love it. This is proven by a solo effort by Pope's in-between songs consisting of just a couple of bass notes and the odd vocal utterance which still sends the fans cheering and shouting. 'Post Acid' is performed at furious speed with a nice, if sloppily executed, dynamic pause mid song. Nat's boyish vocals are nicely mixed with Steve's raucous and heavy screams.
"We don't do encores" Nat simply states which doesn't go down particularly well with the audience. Upon thanking the crowd he receives a 'wanker' hand symbol from an unpleasant spectator which he patiently takes quite well but still gives the guy a good old stare and utters an ominous "I'll fuck with you." Finally 'Green Eyes' comes out with the whole crowd shouting along"'my own friends hate my guts." Maybe their most dynamically diverse song of the set sees Nat look like some video footage of himself playing a gig which is paused and played at intervals, switching between static crooner to angry rocker in an instant. Ending on 'No Hope Kids' the band still possess the energy of superhumans never staying still for even a moment. In a traditional punk rock style the band kick drums and throw the mics about with some landing in the audience.
Despite many fraught words at the sound men, and a guitar that refused to stay in tune, nothing could overshadow what a phenomenal live experience Wavves are live. Definitely one to see before you die.
Purchase and listen
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In case you didn't get the memo, slacker pop is still in. Think backwards baseball caps, porch verandas, cats, all day reruns of bad sitcoms, getting wasted and skipping school. Nathan Williams and co., the artists colloquially known as Wavves, have been the messiahs to the Tumblr generation for years, the apathetic, the uninterested... but how disaffected are they? [read more]