Wavves & FIDLAR at the Larimer Lounge
I approached the Wavves show at Larimer Lounge with only cursory knowledge of their music, and in today’s Pitchfork-fueled indie rock gossip mill, I actually knew more about Nathan Williams’ volatile on and off stage presence than about their discography. Wavves’ initial impact on the festival scene during summer 2009 placed him as a rebellious outlier marinated in the stylistic tropes of 90s fashion and music. The scene before me looked not unlike a typical after-school scene from a 90’s-era teen TV show. Given that trends tend to cycle in 20 year waves, it only seems appropriate that a band with a name of Wavves would draw attention to this point so clearly.
In the simpler times of the 90s, you might watch re-runs of TV shows at a scheduled time and contemplate whether the actors wore ill-fitting clothes because it was trending or because they were motivated to do so by their own sartorial inclinations towards grunge style. Your only reference material were the hour long episodes scattered before you and your own recollection of what might have happened in the prior episode. Today, one might just SiriWikiGoogle the answer and put their imagination to rest. The first band, Cheatahs, performed the sort of overly serious, non-descript rock music that featured so frequently in 90’s-era teen dramas. Lead by a Jordan Catalano from My-So-Called Life look-alike, their sluggish melodies and muddled vocals could have complimented a heartfelt Claire Danes monologue. This effect was intensified by the strings of twinkle lights seen in the fictitious club, The Bronze, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I had initially come to this show to on friends’ recommendation of the second band, FIDLAR, whose name is an unpublishable acronym but one I encourage you to seek out. Upon listening to the band before the show, I considered the fact that many of their songs referenced feelings of inadequacy, failed relationships, and cocaine. Midway through their set, Zac Carper, the lead singer described Utah as terrible, simply for the fact that he had been through three stints of rehab in that state alone. Their lyrics were not embellished as a return to hazy, youthful optimism.
From my observation, much of the crowd, including the aforementioned friends that came to the show specifically for this band, knew the songs well and moshed with gusto. Even local heroes Dirty Few were present, stagediving and crowdsurfing alongside Carper during the set. If ever there were a local act that embody FIDLAR’s ethos of partying with abandon, it’s Dirty Few. Compared to the laconic Cheetahs, THIS was the sort of pastiche that Wavves and associated acts have presented for the past few years. Far from being a polished act, FIDLAR steamrolled through about a dozen songs with the hapless abandon of a proper punk rock party band.
Around 12:00 am, Wavves took the stage–on Late Night with David Letterman. Broadcast on CBS 4 in Denver and pre-recorded sometime earlier that day or week, they played “Demon to Lean On,” the first single from their newest album. On a polished stage, Nathan led his band acapella into the song, his naked voice warbling into the crowd. 20 or so years ago, when the first wave of slacker rock music made the mainstream pay attention, there was little room for their antics on TV. But with many people from Generation Y now working at these mass media companies, it has become a struggle to keep Millennials in touch with dated media.
Wavves actually took the stage before my own eyes about half an hour before the airing of the pre-recorded song. While watching Wavves bash through songs from their four releases, I was thinking mostly about how they were wearing their souvenir Late Show shirts and how Nathan might at any moment become annoyed at the audience or sound guy. My prior knowledge of the band and their history guided my appreciation of their live show. Quite the opposite of previous show implosions, Nathan and his bandmates kept the songs tight and through his gruff voice, a genuine portrayal of how youth of today engage with the world around them. Like their sonic peers Diiv, Yuck, Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, and others, Wavves pull influence from the scrappiest of 90s indie rock acts. They feed in their own tales of alienation and isolation that are products of our digitally connected, but intellectually compartmentalized modern era.
I know it might be naive to be amazed at the hyperreality in our modern culture, but with many people watching TV on demand via their computer or even cell phones, knowing that Wavves was both on TV and in front of me simultaneously made me think even more about how we have a hard time experiencing a show as an isolated event. During the raucous FIDLAR set, I took a photo in which someone was looking at their cell phone, mouth agape, across the room from me. With a stewing pit of joyous people between us, I wondered if he was bored or just living his multichannel experience.
The idea of the simulacrum, that of copying reality into other forms (painting, photography, video) is such a philosophical given that Plato spoke of it in his writings. That Wavves claim to fame is his oft-referenced on-stage temper tantrums (easily found on YouTube) hints at the importance a multichannel experience has in our music listening habits, where we experience not just an album but the context of the band’s backstage and off-stage lives.
Review and photos by Kerry Nordstrom.