I have always asked people who are highly critical of Wavves, and Nathan Williams’ behavior in particular, “What do you expect of a 21 year old kid who made a mix tape in his bedroom, only to be thrust into major hype by Pitchfork, and then shoved on stage in front of huge crowds when he’d barely performed in public?” It’s not so much that I mean to defend the incident at the Primavera Sound Festival last summer… or the fighting… it’s that I do not understand how others can’t see all of these events as being somewhat inevitable.
What’s always captured my interest is how the hype and Wavves’ music are two separate entities and yet, Williams himself always seem to be subject of scrutiny for both. He controls one but not the other, and somehow takes flack for the entire machine. If nothing else, whether you care for the music or not, I think Wavves manages to raise some interesting questions about why certain music is praised, why certain artists succeed, and how much public taste is dictated by music critics.
Personally, I’ve always enjoyed Wavves because the group contains all the brash arrogance of youth. I revel in the songs’ disenchanted laziness and I admire the way Williams continues to make music despite the amount of negative press he has received. Last night at The Knitting Factory, he performed with new drummer Billy Hayes and bassist Stephen Pope as part of Brooklyn’s Northside Festival.
I noticed as I scanned the crowd, that I was at least a good 6-8 years older than the majority of the other attendees. And this ultimately played a part in my perception of the show and the band. When they came onstage to perform, Pitchfork and the hype and the criticism, none of that was apparent in the obvious enjoyment Williams got out of being in front of an audience, the dedication with which he played his music, and his delight in seeing everyone respond so warmly to the set. As a mosh pit formed and the stage diving began, I couldn’t help but think, “Am I too old to be here? Am I too old to understand this music?” Everything I have been reading about Wavves over the past year, all the back and forth debates over whether or not the praise is deserved, clearly didn’t matter to the band and it certainly didn’t matter to the audience. There was more genuine, frantic energy during the hour Wavves played than at any other show I’ve been to in a good long while. And ultimately, there was an element lost in translation for me. I can’t think of anything else to attribute it to but the fact that I am a generation older than the lead singer and his audience.
This is not to say I didn’t enjoy myself, because I did. I liked Wavves before and I like them more now after seeing them play live. It’s simply that I had viewed the group in a different way, as a vehicle for argument and the discussion of music criticism, and I was prepared for an audience that felt the same way, when the audience could not have cared less. They weren’t there to potentially witness a public debacle and confirm or dispel any rumors. They were there for the sole intention of seeing a band they liked. And to blow off some steam.
It was really Hayes who stole the show last night with his constant bantering and continuous dialogue between songs from behind the drum kit. “I liked you better when you were a naïve college grad,” he joked in Williams’ direction and, “This song is called Mountain Dew,” he claimed before the band launched into “Post Acid,” the single released on Green Label Sound.
The group also played the title track off the upcoming album King of the Beach, in addition to a host of forthcoming songs including “Idiot.” I have to be honest and say that I was still more excited to hear “So Bored” and “No Hope Kids,” but I haven’t had much time to spend with the new tracks as of yet. This will change as the summer goes on and I rely more and more on hazy lo-fi crescendos to articulate the feel of the season.
Nathan Williams. The kid has got guts and bravado and a need to put the music he has created out there whatever others say. And in the face of such conflicting opinions, and whatever persona he has cultivated for himself, these are admirable qualities. King of the Beach will be out on Fat Possum August 3rd. Listen with my recommendation.
Download “Post Acid” for free from Green Label Sound here.