Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Live: Wavves + Beach Fossils, Ganglians

When: 9/25
Where: Market Hotel

I've got a bit behind on live reviews here, but luckily, I took a few notes from this show almost two weeks ago, at which Wavves packed Market Hotel wall-to-wall.

The first band we caught was Beach Fossils. Honestly, I don't know what to say about them. There are so many of these lo-fi punk bands right now, and so many of them with some sort of beach/surf theme, that it's just impossible to think of anything new to say. Beach Fossils were okay in that they had decent melodies and songwriting. They weren't particularly exciting on stage, but you could hop around to their music if you wanted to. They are definitely in the upper 50% of bands of their type, but such bands are a dime a dozen right now, so I can't say you should go out of your way to check them out. But neither should you go out of your way to avoid them. [MySpace]

Ganglians, a California band, followed. It's a name you hear around a lot if you're following the DIY scene, but I have to say, they were very disappointing. The long-haired, bearded singer seemed like he was aiming for the ironic lumberjack look, which worked well in 1991 but doesn't really cut it anymore. He made me think of that Le Tigre song title "Dude Yr So Crazy!!" because I got the impression that's the reaction he was hoping to illicit. But the dude isn't crazy, and it's a pretty weak put-on.

All this would be irrelevant if there was some good music to back it up, but there wasn't. The "melodies" were hardly melodies at all, barely wavering from monotone. The riffs were immensely predictable, the kind you've heard already in a dozen different songs, with slight variation. The band does have a knack for arrangements, and the interesting, creative decisions did give the songs a sense of structure. Of course, that skill is kind of wasted when there's no melody. And when the music has no heart. [MySpace]

Wavves, of course, is the opposite in many ways. There are great melodies and quite a bit of genuine expression in the songs. Nathan Williams may not exactly be turning himself inside out, but it's clear he's putting some part of himself into the music. He's having fun, but he's a real musician with a real artistic contribution too.

The audience was young and very excited. The crowd surfing and dancing was alright, but rushing the stage became a problem when it resulted in equipment failure, cutting Williams off. He was clearly unsure of what to do about the kids, but Todd P. dashed over and scared them off. At the end, Williams himself lept into the fray, riding the crowd while his drummer finished out the set alone.

Williams has improved his playing and singing since I saw him last, but he's still looking down a lot to check his power chords. And that's exactly what's so inspiring about Wavves - if this kid can do it, anyone can do it. He's got no special gift and he clearly didn't have the privilege of childhood lessons (or if he did, his parents should demand their money back). That's why he, more than anyone else right now, is the hero of DIY.

His drummer, however, does not really fit. The drummer is excellent - too excellent. As a young man, he clearly has some impulse to show off his skills, and as a talented drummer, he clearly gets bored with Williams's ultra-simplistic punk. I sympathize with him, but all the fills and frills in his playing distracted from the essence of the music. Great drummer, bad match.

But despite these problems, Williams cranked out familiar songs from both albums as well as some new ones, all of them catchy, inspired gems. The sound was a little out of control with feedback - "Jasper" described it as "Wavves: the Jesus & Mary Chain version." It seems all the racket was neither intentional nor unwanted, but rather, in appropriate Wavves style, was just shrugged off with an implied "whatever." And despite the fact that a large proportion of people left clasping their ears, I'd be surprised if anyone didn't have fun. [MySpace]

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