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Wavves at 7th Street Entry, 3/29/13

Wavves at 7th Street Entry, 3/29/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Wavves
With FIDLAR and Cheatahs
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
Friday, March 29, 2013

Wavves, fronted by singer/guitarist Nathan Williams and bassist Stephen Pope, rolled into Minneapolis on Friday as part of a national, small-venue tour to promote their new album Afraid of Heights. Touring with Mom+Pop label mates FIDLAR, the evening promised to be a raucous exercise in Southern California punk/surf rock catharsis, complete with repeated references to getting drunk, stoned and generally fucked up.

See Also:
Slideshow: Wavves, FIDLAR, and Cheatahs at 7th St. Entry

Wavves' 45-minute set blasted out of the gate with a feverish "Idiot" from the excellent 2010 album King of the Beach. The energy was electric and the sold-out crowd reveled in the blistering opener. Technical difficulties made an untimely appearance, forcing the eager audience to wait anxiously for a second helping. Resigned to push on without his clear channel, Williams and his Wavves band mates sped forward with "Bug," from their 2011 EP Life Sux, before revisiting King of the Beach with the ripping track "Take on the World."

Wavves finally got around to Afraid of Heights with a faithful, if not somewhat forced, rendition of "Demon to Lean On." The show could have easily been a showcase for the new record, but Wavves cobbled together a well-balanced set that included earlier tracks from King of the Beach, Life Sux and Wavvves. They even threw in a rough-hewn cover of Sonic Youth's "100%" (a coincidental coda to Thurston Moore's rock explosion a few nights earlier at the Triple Rock via Chelsea Light Moving) and a mocking, meandering digression late in the set in the form of a garbled version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge."

Wavves at 7th Street Entry, 3/29/13
Wavves at 7th Street Entry, 3/29/13
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

The 15-song set only featured five tracks from Afraid of Heights. The crowd welcomed "Demon to Lean On" with predictably open arms. "Afraid of Heights" and "Sail to the Sun" received equally warm receptions, but the older material -- most notably the six tracks from King of the Beach - - won the night. Williams was in a characteristically snarky mood, bantering with the crowd, taking playful digs at supporting act FIDLAR and mocking a fan who asked him to keep it real. In light of his tempestuous reputation (a typical misinterpretation of perfectionist tendencies), Williams handled the equipment failure well. The same couldn't be said for a late-set miscommunication between drummer Jacob Cooper as a noticeably annoyed Williams took a chop at one of Cooper's cymbals with his guitar.

 

Despite the brilliant intensity of the first half of the set, the show began to drag around the 30-minute mark. "Sail to the Sun" transitioning into "Green Eyes" should have been a compelling bridge between Wavves' old and new material, but something was amiss in the later moments. The buoyancy and exuberance that define King of the Beach was palpable in the first twenty minutes, but it was gone by the end of the night, swept away in an undertow of rushed dispassion.

By Williams' count, Friday marked Wavves' sixth appearance in Minneapolis. It wasn't his first rodeo -- in the Twin Cities or otherwise -- but he was hardly in peak form. Fatigue from the road and the pressure of promoting a new album? Maybe. Hangover from an appearance on Late Show With David Letterman? Possibly. Suffering from the adverse effects of pulling from a bottle of Jameson (or was that Cutty Sark?) throughout the set certainly didn't help.

Wavves at 7th Street Entry, 3/29/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Wavves intermittently achieved the vitality of their best work on Friday, but a sustained, set-long effort was lacking. The Twin Cities will have to wait until Wavves return for a proper taste of the great heights this band can reach.

Critic's Notebook

The Crowd: Frenzied. FIDLAR's boring rhetoric aside (college sucks; fuck rehab; I! DRINK! CHEAP! BEER! SO! WHAT! FUCK! YOU!"), they set the stage well for the more cohesive, lyrically interesting and markedly louder Wavves. Several in the audience seized the moment for a bit of crowd surfing while others hung from the rafters, including FIDLAR frontman Zac Carper.

FIDLAR dude
FIDLAR dude
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Personal Bias: I first saw Wavves two years ago, headlining for Best Coast and No Joy at San Diego's strip mall punk club SOMA. They laid waste to the club that night and Williams was an absolute force. He's no doubt reprised that role many times in the past two years, but this was not one of those occasions.

I haven't spent much time with Afraid of Heights, but the new material lacks the essential qualities that make King of the Beach special. The best tracks on that album are inventive, structurally innovative, funny and freshly original. Formula and predictability are unwelcomed, dominating specters on the new record.

Setlist:

1. Idiot
2. Bug
3. Take on the World
4. Demon to Lean On
5. Beat Me Up
6. Paranoid
7. No Hope Kids
8. Super Soaker
9. Afraid of Heights
10. Sail to the Sun
11. Green Eyes
12. ?????
13. King of the Beach
14. 100%
15. Post Acid


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