Review: Wavves, January 3rd 2016, at Max Watt’s.
There’s a feeling of thick anticipation in the air. People are milling around, waiting for something to happen, while a handful of enthusiastic young fans of opening support act Wet Lips assemble at the front of the stage. They cheer wildly as the band comes into view, and, after a brief conversation with the audience, they begin, filling the bar with clattering garage rock that sets the scene for the night to come.
Despite an ill drummer and a small crowd, the three-piece sound like they’re playing for a stadium, commanding the attention of the entire room with their powerful vocals, casual banter, and rolling, thunderous drumming.
The kids are dancing, while the older fans mostly stick around the edges, nodding their heads in time to the infectious beat. When the music stops, the tension settles over the crowd again.
There’s a peel of laughter and a rumbling of nervous conversation. Second act Babe Rainbow set up their instruments as the crowd begins to swell around the stage.They look like archetypical bayside stoners with their blonde hair, sixties beachwear, and casual, slacker attitude. But their music is anything but lazy, combining surf riffs with long-form, technical psychedelic rock.
The crowd responds energetically to a couple of upbeat singles, but the energy is heavy in the room. Babe Rainbow leave the stage to strong applause. We look around at one another. Wavves are starting soon. It feels like you could cut the tension with a knife.
Wavves latest album wasn’t really well received. Critics say it’s harder and faster than the band has ever played before, but they also saw it as a kind of a regression: a step away from the more mature sound the band had built across their later albums.
It was bratty, self-loathing pop-punk, eschewing complicated melodies in exchange for sheer force and adolescent energy. But the expectations of the crowd were high when Williams took the stage, and as soon as the first song hit the room exploded in a burst of pent-up energy.
The songs which garnered the best reactions were the new ones, with tracks like ‘All The Same’ and ‘My Head Hurts’ taking on a whole new life when he played them to a wall of screaming, bouncing fans, singing along to his every single word in breathless, boundless, adoration.
Drinks were thrown, joints were lit, and there were so many people stage diving that by the end of the show the bouncers seemed like they had given up. It was, in short, the most punk-rock, energetic live show many had paid witness to in years. It was far beyond anything heard on any of their recorded albums. It was a moment, an experience. History was being made. And everybody in that room was part of it.The night ended with a recording of Witney Houston’s ‘And I Will Always Love You’, and as the lights went up the audience sang along. The floor was littered with crushed beer cans and smoke was hanging in the air.
All around were wide-eyed, sweaty bodies, lingering around the stage as if they couldn’t quite believe the show was over. Williams laid his cards on the table: he’d worked his encore into his main set. And anyway, the lights were on: he wasn’t coming back.
And even so, the fans seemed to be shocked that it was over. “It felt so short,” one girl said, and lamented that he hadn’t played her favourite song. Still, she was anything but disappointed. Pitchfork may not like them anymore, but the fans don’t give a shit. Wavves have become the anthem of a generation, and that night was the proof.