"did you get to be who you are. and if not, then why. that, my friend, is the big why." - Michael Winter

best in show: wavves and best coast


Wavves open their set fast and unlike four guys who play the same songs night after night. Three guitars sparkling red, flat white, and a Flying V in front of drums on risers. Their sound is one part pop and two parts punk with indie rock undertones and riffs that sound familiar the first time you hear them. Harmonies come from the kit and the lead during “Pony” with lyrics that echo emo — “Leave me alone all by myself / but this much is true/ I’ll always be lost without you”. The first six rows of people are already dancing.

Besides the undercurrent their sound infers, the most punk thing about them is the way they stand and what they wear – plain black, denim vests, Lou Reed t-shirts. Guitars low, strumming straight down, singing right into the mic.

Someone starts smoking pot 6 songs in and the whole crowd is singing “You’re killing me, I hope you know” during “My Head Hurts”. During “Heart Attack”, they say “You can do anything you wanna do” and I start dancing – not sure if it’s the crowd or the music or the beer I bought after Nathan Williams shares a cheers with the crowd.

Someone starts stage diving awkwardly and security is ready, Wavves reputation precedes them. Sometimes they sound like Hamilton’s The Dirty Nil dressed up or ready to go surfing. A few songs have lead guitar twinkling over garage guitars and Stephen Pope’s long curly hair flying back and forth. “Heavy Metal Detox” reminds me that Wavves is playing with Best Coast and that this tour is called “Summer is Forever II”.

In comparison, Best Coast cuts through the salt of Wavves with more than a little sweetness. Instead of rough around the edges, their sound is purely polish — literally. Bethany Cosentino is in leather. After opening with “When I’m With You”, the crowd starts clapping during “Crazy for You” (“Want to kill you but then I’d miss you / You drive me crazy but I love you”). Cosentino tries putting her guitar away after two songs to focus on singing, asking “When did my life stop being so fun?” Her melancholy words sound like an empty beach, crashing like waves into the shore, like sand between your toes.

Also like summer, you get the feeling just a few songs in that this is a set they never want to end. They play a run of songs from their new record, California Nights, and Bobb Bruno plays his guitar with two hands during “Heaven Sent”. Before “Summer Mood”, Cosentino reflects that the “Summer is Forever I” tour was five years ago. People who are too stoned start leaving and I realize the bass guitar hasn’t stopped beating for an hour.

There’s a shout out from one female artist to another — “Seriously, free Ke$ha” and someone sprays their beer into the crowd during “I Want To” to make up for the slow interlude. “This is a chill one,” the band says, making you want to fall in love with the stranger dancing next to you. The party kids continue to clear out and the true fans draw closer and now I can see that Cosentino’s tambourine is shaped like a star.

This is “The Only Place” and someone is crowd-surfing, the stage is a tie-dye of colours and sounds. Anthems like “Feeling OK” and “Boyfriend” are worth waiting for. Rock-driven “When Will I Change” closes out their set and after a quick encore of “Bratty B” the chilled-out crowd heads home before 11.

Footnote: I missed the first band, Cherry Glazerr, but I heard they are also from Cali and they had cool merch — white briefs with slot-machine style graphics on the butt.

Original article by Kristin Conrad on Extreme Nonchalance.

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© Kristin Lee Conrad