Earlier this year, Wavves announced they’d be touring the country with FIDLAR, but prior to the announcement, it was anything but a bold prediction that this thing was going to happen. FIDLAR and Wavves in 2013 are a touring match made in heaven: both like to drink, crowd surf, and jaw with the audience; both have a brand new album out; both have a large chunk of material that could easily pass as the other’s; and, if you really wanna get technical, both have a song that literally contains the lyric “got no car, got no money.”
But whereas Wavves found relief in an intimate, low-capacity setting like Chicago’s Subterranean, especially in the midst of all the heavy publicity over the past few weeks, FIDLAR wasn’t in any position to just coast through the Windy City. They had fans to win over; Wavves already had them. So the younger L.A. band, whose name is an acronym for “fuck it dog, life’s a risk”, risked limb with a little extra reckless abandon as they thrashed through a set that opened in top gear with their ode to “Cheap Beer” and their self-effacing anthem, “Stoked and Broke”.
As Wavves started to set up, room temperatures shifted from comfortably warm to B.O.-inducing. And then with minimal fanfare, they jumped right into King of the Beach’s “Idiot”, followed by Life Sux EP opener “Bug” and a couple more that weren’t from the new album. That was the set’s warm-up phase, which preceded their more aggressive new material off their latest album, Afraid of Heights. Prior to their early 9:30 p.m. finish — gotta love those all-ages curfews — the band dusted off more familiar favorites, specifically “Post Acid”, “King of the Beach”, and “No Hope Kids”. Throughout the night, it was hard to stop watching Stephen Pope’s beautiful hair, which has taken on a legitimate mascot-type role now that he’s become the only other consistent band member. Good riddance, he’s full of character. By set’s end, the room temperature had become so unbearable that Pope took off his already-sleeveless shirt.
As the show went on, another commonality between the two already-compatible groups surfaced: Both seem to prioritize punk protocol throughout their live sets; never going too long without some sort of convulsion or stage-dive or curdling scream. They both strategically sneak in songs that flip the script with fine-tuned melody, aka what’s separating them from the field. For FIDLAR, that was set highlight “AWWKWAARRRDDD”, almost half the speed of the rest of their songs and by far their least visceral. For Wavves, it came in moments like Heights anchor “Demon to Lean On”, Beach’s “Green Eyes”, or their cover of Sonic Youth’s “100%”, which lyrically echoes “Demon”.
I’ve seen Nathan Williams perform with various incarnations of Wavves — all in the immediate wake of 2009’s Wavvves and 2010’s King of the Beach – and his growth as an engineer of crowd interaction has never been clearer. He exhibits more control than ever before, even though he’ll still bait the audience as expected (“You don’t want to be the lamest crowd. Milwaukee was BUCK. I don’t know if that’s because of the Milwaukee Bucks, or what.”). Last night, however, he brought it right back every time with some knee-jerk display of goofballism, as if to remind them that he knows what he’s doing. His hi-jinx are out of love, even when he responds to “Hey Nathan, take off your shirt!” with “Suck. My. DICK.”
Don’t forget to read our latest cover story: Wavves: Picking Up the Slack
Supplemental photography by David Greenwald and Michael Roffman.
Friends Were Gone
Sail to the Sun
Demon to Lean On
Afraid of Heights
Beat Me Up
King of the Beach
100% (Sonic Youth cover)
No Hope Kids