Wavves – The Arches
It was fitting that the Arches played host for the first night of San Diego three piece Wavves’ European tour. The usual sound problems that so often blight the Arches fit into the band’s careful but somewhat haphazard ethos. Having started as a lo-fi internet based project in Nathan Williams’ bedroom, and with their instruments lost somewhere between Chicago and Glasgow, the do-it-yourself mood was further bolstered by poorly judged levels that can only of resulted from a lack of sound checks. Though this would perhaps be understandable for the support groups, Glasgow’s own Paws and the impressive OtherPeople, it surely is not too much to expect that the headline act would be afforded a task as simple correct sound preparation.
Regardless of any sound quibbles, Wavves put on an energetic and entertaining show, despite being obviously inebriated. Fortunately there was no repeat of 2009’s infamous set at Primavera Sound, which resulted in Williams fighting with then drummer Ryan Ulsh, being pelted by the Spanish crowd and a hasty statement the following day of an alcohol addiction. In truth Williams struck a much more relaxed figure than when he last reached these shores, and if drunken dialogue between songs and a half-arsed rendition of Blink-182’s Dammit is the worst eventuality of his drinking, it hasn’t been the hardest fall from the wagon.
Wavves’ form has undoubtedly been improved since the hiring of a new rhythm section, with Williams now ably backed by two members of the late Jay Reatard’s band; drummer Billy Hayes and bassist Stephen Pope. Hayes and Pope were also on hand for the recording of recent L.P. King of the Beach, and this extended period of being in close proximity of one other was betrayed in the genuine camaraderie that the three shared. The lion’s share of the set list was taken from King of the Beach, with a particularly angst ridden rendition of Green Eyes and a commanding version of Super Soaker with an extended outro that saw Williams and Pope rolling about the floor whilst still playing their instruments in a commendable fashion being notable highlights.
Wavves were loud and noisy throughout, heavy reverb and modulation par for the course for both vocal and guitar, but the well thought-out dynamics that are the cornerstone of so many of their songs shone through. Their brand of Californian surfer-punk may seem quite simplistic, however their style is one that has been developed from a fine command of their instruments. Much of the first two records’ difficult distortion and unpolished charm was replaced with a much more accessible, almost pop-punk, sound with their third L.P. and this has been extended to the live arena also. Nonetheless, the disaffected inertia of Wavves’ earlier work was not lost in this better developed style, and the stoner indolence of So Bored of the second record combined well with current single Post Acid for a frenetic and fevered finale. Such was the fervour that three young locals stormed the stage adding a faux wrestling ruckus to the night’s conclusion. Event security were powerless to halt this sideshow, and as the I’m just having fun refrain of Post Acid faded into another bitter Glasgow night, a small but entertained, satisfied but drained crowd filed away with ears that will probably still be ringing when Wavves return.