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Review: Wavves in Bloomington, Sept. 14

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Two pillars of Californian lo-fi, Wavves and No Age, played one night each at a two-night shmorgasboard of sound that was originally meant to be one big show. Wavves headlined Tuesday, September 14 and No Age Wednesday, September 15, both at Rhino’s All-Ages Youth Center in Bloomington.

The first night was opened by Bloomington natives Apache Dropout and followed by two San Diego-based and not surprisingly surf-inspired bands, Christmas Island and Wavves.

Local garage-crust three piece Apache Droput played on the floor of the venue rather than the stage. They were booked by Dan Coleman of Spirit of 68 Promotions because they “made the most sense”.”

60’s-inspired surf-jangle band Christmas Island displayed two very different sides of their sound. Following their first few songs, one of which included the repeated phrase “Dinosaurs, I can’t believe you ever existed” followed by some stuff about time-travel, Christmas Island’s set became increasingly pedal-heavy and less cutesy. Toward the end of their set, the vocals in songs like “Blackout Summer” reminded me more of the Dead Milkmen than The Strokes.

Closing the night, Wavves played a lack-lustre yet still satisfying set. Lead singer Nathan Williams announced from the beginning that he “smoked this green stuff and felt alright.” Backed by the late Jay Reatard’s former band, Stephen Pope on bass and Billy Hayes on drum, the low-fi sound of Wavves’ early recordings translated decently on stage.

After every song he kept saying “Alright, one more,” giving the impression that he ready to leave at any moment. And Williams’ reputation certainly preceded him: Hecklers in the crowd egged him on by asking him to play Elton John, probably hoping for a confrontation. Contrary to his aggressive reputation, Williams half-heartedly joked right along with the crowd.

Wavves at Rhinos.
  • Wavves at Rhino's.

Williams lighthearted demeanor was somewhat surprising. When I first decided to interview him, I conjured up all the drama associated with his band: the arrogant interviews, the onstage meltdowns, the weed.

And even after agreeing to do an interview, Williams had his tour manager tell me he was too tired and “didn’t feel like it any more.” Still, I managed to get said tour manager to introduce me to Williams. The first words he spoke to me were, “You don’t look very nice.” I told him I heard the same about him. He decided to give me the interview.

That’s what’s strange about Williams; he is off-putting, abrasive, and pretentious, but I like him. He can be surprisingly down to earth at moments.

Williams claims that he signed to Fat Possum for his last two releases — Wavvves (2009) and King of the Beach (2010) — because they mailed him a box of Monopoly money that included a check for $1000 and got his car out of impound after he had received a ticket.

His latest release, King of the Beach, was set to come out in August 2010 on Fat Possum, but, Williams explains that, “It got leaked in Europe, so we released it on July 1st instead.”

Throughout his rise to the top of the underground, Williams has maintained an interest in some of the same rap groups that he was writing about on his blog, Ghost Ramp, when he first got discovered. Currently, Williams says his biggest influence is Lil Wayne. He also mentioned a love for Midwest garage-punk band The Smith Westerns, as well as Post Present Medium label-mates Abe Vigoda.

I asked Williams if it’s true that he hates the ocean, as some interviews had suggested.

“I’ve lived in Southern Cali my whole life. It’s not that I hate the beach, I’m just afraid of the ocean,” he said. “Brian Wilson was afraid of the ocean too.”

Along with the ocean, another inspiration for the coastal riffs that resonate from Wavves’ guitar is the influence of marijuana. As of September 15, the day after his Bloomington show, Wavves weed grinders were available for purchase on the Pitchfork website.

“On a scale of one to Cheech and Chong, how much do you love weed?” a fan asked Williams.

“I like weed a lot,” he responded.

Nathan Williams outside of Rhinos.
  • Nathan Williams outside of Rhino's.

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All images by Sara Baldwin. See more on her flickr account.

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