Not 30 seconds into Wavves’ set-opener “Way Too Much,” there was beer spraying all around The Independent as the crowd threw their drinks — or had their drinks ripped from their hands — at the band’s headlining set at The Independent on Saturday night.
Wavves fully delivered on its fans’ expectations: gritty vocals that screamed self-doubt and anxiety, majorly fuzzy guitars alongside frantic drums, a deep bass and a raging pit.
This show was damn loud and damn fun.
From the get-go, the band launched into tracks from 2010’s King of the Beach: first “Take On the World,” then the percussion-centric song “King of the Beach” — an anthem that projects more confidence than is usual for the band. Ironically, it was followed immediately by the pessimistic, self-abasing “Idiot” — which fans hollered along to all the same, fists banging in the air.
Wavves has maintained loyalty to the grittiness it began with in 2008: the kind of sound typical of a skate park, where scraped limbs, beer and insecurity abound. That tone is best exemplified on King of the Beach, which illustrates where the band has evolved from: lo-fi surf punk.
Meanwhile with its most recent album, You’re Welcome, Wavves has ushered in tracks that could almost be described as “upbeat” — revealing some 1960s doo-wop influence that can be heard in frontman Nathan Williams’ side-project, Spirit Club. Despite melodies that are slightly less gritty than King of the Beach or Afraid of Heights, the songs off You’re Welcome still maintain the achingly fatalistic lyrical constructions that Wavves is known for.
The song “Daisy,” for example, played about halfway through the show, begins with a bouncy, even flowery refrain that blends with an upbeat percussion pattern before jumping right into a fast-paced jam. It’s the closest Wavves will probably ever come to a “cheery tune.”
Despite the fact that many of the songs from You’re Welcome sound significantly less melancholy than Wavves’ previous hits, the band maintained an underground, garage-y tone throughout its live show. “Animal” balanced optimistic twinkling bells with cynical lyrics such as “The whole world is covered in gasoline and burning alive” — and blended King of the Beach’s misanthropy with a more beatnik pop melody.
Later in the night, the show slowed down as the crowd crooned along to “Demon to Lean On,” from the band’s 2013 album Afraid of Heights. The song’s self-loathing lyrics captured the honest and almost adolescent vulnerability that Wavves is most revered for.
Unsurprisingly given his self-critical lyrics, Williams isn’t much of a showman, a fact that made Wavves’ show all the more genuine. Where some bands take a very theatrical approach to live shows, Williams’ performance was more laid-back. He chatted with fans near the stage who asked about his favorite taco shop and when speaking to the crowd, his voice was soft, quiet even.
“Sometimes when I’m excited I throw up blood,” Williams laughed, far too casually.
When it came time for the encore, Wavves delivered once again: the night ended with an idyllic rendition of “Green Eyes.” The song started off slower and softer than it is on the album, only to launch into a thunderous, climactic chorus.
The best part of seeing Wavves live — beyond the electric energy emanating from fans who messily belt out the band’s lyrics right alongside Williams — is the unhindered intensity of the bandmembers themselves. Williams practically bares his soul to the crowd while he screams his throat raw and his band members beat the hell out of their instruments. What more can fans ask for?