Wavves brings amped energy, classic rock passion to August Hall

Photo of Wavves in concert
Kyle Garcia Takata/Staff

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Rock band Wavves’ music has incredible staying power, both because of the band’s classic rock and roll bangers and newer surf, indie-rock edge. With more than a decade of head-banging guitar solos, throaty lyric howling and nationwide touring experience, Wavves brought amps and energy on Nov. 11 to San Francisco’s August Hall for their fall 2021 United States tour. 

In support of their new album Hideaway, frontman Nathan Williams, guitarist Alex Gates, bassist Stephen Pope and drummer Ross Traver warmed up August Hall with not one, but two openers with drastically different sounds. 

Upbeat and substantially sharp from the start, rock band Cuffed Up started the night as a surprise set addition. Second opener Harmless softened the venue with hopeful, lovesick, pining indie-pop tracks — complemented by singer Nacho Cano’s light yet soulful vocals — readying the hall for Wavves to raucously take the stage.

The band entered without announcement and began whaling away. With the nonchalance of seasoned performers, the band was stoic on stage, comfortably shaking their classically long rocker locks to their opening song, “Way Too Much.” 

Working up a casual sweat, Williams and Pope emoted most when swinging their guitars around and jumping alongside the crowd. “Linus Spacehead” evoked shrieks and squeals as Williams’ focused, steady “ooh”s rang through the venue. 

The bond between the performers and their fans was electric and infectious; Williams, Gates and Pope’s animated, blatant attachment to their own music was transferred to the crowd, whose cheers and activity in the mosh pit mounted with each fast-paced track.

Yet after several uptempo songs from across the band’s four albums, the set felt a bit one-note — even if that note was incredibly hype. Additionally, at times, the band felt dependent on August Hall’s impressive lighting setup and techniques. Powerful beams would strobe during guitar solo ballads; changes in the light’s color were the main catalysts for shifts in the pace of the set. 

Fortunately, slower, languishing “Caviar” came as a palate cleanser. Shifting the mood of the set, the romantic song drew dutiful attention to Williams’ swanky, gravelly tone. The lights sweeping over the hall complemented the band’s musicality perfectly during “Sinking Feeling.” 

Pope rocked to his own tune the whole set, throwing his head and body into his instrument and vocals as he fell down a rabbit hole of his own playing. Drummer Traver also brought consistently impressive intensity to every track, no matter the tempo. As green and blue lights swiveled, Traver’s possession with his rhythm was front and center during “Marine Life.” 

After pausing to hydrate, Williams and Pope chatted up the audience, emphasizing how it was “freaking good to be back” performing in the wake of loosened pandemic protocols. The crowd agreed, sending several rounds of shots to the stage mid-performance before the band kicked the music back off with “Heavy Metal Detox,” a track Williams dedicated “for all of you.”

The rest of the set cruised by, with stunning guitar solos ala Scott Pilgrim from Gates and Williams. A final tempo change came with fan-favorite “Nine Is God,” a highlight reel-worthy level of triumphant, nostalgic instrumentalism. “Post Acid” unified and mystified everyone in the venue, with Williams’ profound note-holding accompanied by rapturous flashing of lights and moshing.

Thrumming bass riffs in “Green Eyes” closed out Wavves’ performance. The song spun on for ages, eventually devolving with discordant jumps, peaks, slows and a final ramp-up showing off the range of the band, from soft and wistful to a hard, infinite, endless rock ballad coursing through the audience. 

The three-hour-long performance ended simply, with drained, rocked-out bandmates dropping their gear, knocking over stands and ringing interference from the mountain of speakers onstage. The skill and bond of the entire band were evident throughout the set, displaying the lasting impacts seasoned performers can have on an audience when they know and love and still find raw passion in their repertoire.

Contact Katherine Shok at [email protected].