As word on the street would have you believe, Nathan Williams and his band Wavves are completely ridiculous. Last night when Williams and his band mates took to the stage at Soho in Santa Barbara, hilarity immediately ensued. It took me a minute to realize what it is about Williams, his mystique (or actual complete lack thereof), and his version of surf punk for 2010 that has such draw. What I realized is that Williams is the onstage equivalent of everyone’s obnoxious little brother. What he lacks in musical stature he makes up for in smart ass-ery, and there is absolutely no boundary between Wavves and their fans. I saw more interaction between Williams, bassist Stephen Pope, drummer Billy Hayes and the all ages crowd than I think I have at any show before in my entire life. Wavves would talk shit about each other, than some people in the crowd, then would realize what they were doing on a stage with instruments and Williams would just say something like “oh yea, lets play a song,” and just like that, there was music. The process repeated itself for the entirety of their roughly hour-long set, and although that recipe may sound slightly annoying (because it was), it also brings you back to your adolescence, in a good way.
The kids were sweating, people were moshing, and the security guys definitely had better nights. The all ages crowd seemed to have had some sort of Count Chocula fueled sugar rush, with all the Santa Barbara groms bouncing off the walls and into each other. The whole crowd was head banging to tracks like “Idiot” and “Post Acid” off of the less than a month old album King of the Beach. The set was actually rich with tracks from their latest album, with the trio playing the title track “King of the Beach,” “Supersoaker,” “Take on the World,” “Green Eyes,” and “Linus Spacehead.” The older songs “So Bored” and “No Hope Kids” also made appearances in the set list after a significant amount of heckling between Williams and a fan who wanted to hear “No Hope Kids” at the beginning of the show. Williams told the guy that he was planning to play the song later and if the guy didn’t calm down he would save the song until the end. The onstage shit talking continued with a conversation that started about why security was removing someone from the mosh pit, to which a fan replied “He had a little dick.” Williams didn’t miss a beat when he said that Santa Barbara sucked because he would be thrown out of every bar due to his “Baby carrot.” The maturity level was at rock bottom, but I was still laughing. There is something special about that kind of on stage dynamic. When all the kids are able to demand songs and have full on conversations with the band that they love, it is a great thing. During one song, bassist Stephen Pope turned his back on his microphone to do something (probably taking a swig of his bottle of Maker’s Mark), when a kid jumped on stage, grabbed the mic and starting wailing away. The part that makes me respect Wavves is that nobody stopped him, not even Pope. They all kept playing and allowed their fan to rock out with them until the end of the song. He jumped off the stage and Williams just said something along the lines of “Hey, was that some guy?” Yes Nathan, it was some guy. It was actually more like some kid who totally had his night made by that moment.
The show ended after about an hour, and the three gentlemen returned to the stage for a two-song encore that was seemingly more difficult for them than previously. Pope was swigging away on his bottle of Maker’s Mark, and at one point Williams was using a bottle of Heineken to play his guitar by pressing it to the neck and strumming away. The night concluded in proper fashion, with Williams asking the crowd if anyone had any good drugs. People shouted the names of a few different substances before Williams just told them to meet him after if they had the goods. Williams and his band are a perpetual punch line, taking nothing very seriously in their musical travels. In this way I think that Wavves are a breath of fresh air in an industry full of bands that love to marinate in the juices of their own hype. Wavves don’t really seem to care about much, and the kids don’t really seem to mind. They are immature surf-punk incarnate, and they are a damn good time.