Wavves – Corner Hotel, 14th of March

Nathan Williams’ first live show was played in front of seven hundred people, hundreds more than most nascent bands. Like the other – and I’d bet my flanniethat he’d cringe at being called this – stars who developed in the spotlight, hewas forced to make his mistakes in front of a million cultural vampires waiting forthe ammunition to prove the wunderkind was only worth the screeds of thebloggers who arguably launched him – to say nothing of his talent – and nothingmore. Almost three years, several notable tantrums, and a changed lineup laterand the world seems even more interested in the kid now than his early fanscould’ve (or would’ve, having enjoyed the prestige of sitting on such a strong but precarious act) predicted.Where were you when you first fell in love with Wavves? I remember exactly.Twelve and a half seconds into the “No Hope Kids” video. It’s rare that a bandgrabs you so immediately but when it happens, you know you’ve experiencedsomething incredible. It takes you over, like falling in love or trying on a new pairof jeans with the perfect fit and just the right amount of stretch. It’s inexplicable,and it’s precious. So how does a SoCal noise-pop trio stand up to such astandard in person? Pretty well, it turns out.Williams’ shuffles out on stage in a Misfits tee, adorned with the cover of thesingle “Horror Business”. Appropriate, given the single’s proximity to Wavves’music, both exhibiting similar buzzy melodies. He shares the stage with theenormous bassist Stephen Pope, one third of Jay Reatard’s old band, and thenew drummer Jacob Cooper, who plays magnificently in a slot previously filled by some intimidating performers (‘sup Zach Hill?) The set is tight and they only stop for banter a couple of times, one of which involves a brief anecdote about an old friend of Williams’ named Strongman Awesome. “True story. He’s in jail now,” he quips and, without missing a beat, starts on the next song. We’ve got a good spot in the crowd, a couple rows behind the mosh. A comfortable position to enjoy the band, but after a while I begin to feel like a poser going to what’sostensibly a punk show and not banging up against people, so I jump in too.This is also motivated by the need to show the asshole in front of us the appropriate area for moshing, because he seemed to think that using his girlfriend’s shoulders to leap higher and more violently into the air when everyone around him was standing there trying to watch was understandable behavior. It’s okay, mate! Grab my hand, let me show you the way! Leave the poor girl alone! Kids bounce along the outstretched canopy of arms, rolling over each other and narrowly avoiding the hazard of the giant wooden pole to the left of the crowd. Either side of the stage, screens play a constantly shifting feed of the band, warping the image between psychedelic distortion and a blurred, dusty platform with an eerie similarity to the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” shoot.Through a curtain of sweat-drenched jet-black bangs, Williams surveys thecrowd one last time. He flicks his guitar up and thrashes it with the final barsof “Post Acid” to the wails of us frenzied kids. It’s a good thing it was soimpressive; The bastards didn’t give us an encore, which Williams later explained on Twitter was because they’d played all the songs they knew. When the only criticism of Wavves is that they didn’t play more, it should be taken as evidence that the skeptics were wrong. They’re just having fun with you.- Jake Cleland


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