Last Wednesday I went to a gig with a little bit of a difference for me. Most of the time I go to watch bands I love. Bands whose back catalogues I’ve listened to to death, and to whom I can sing every word and bounce along to ever beat. But even though they’re a band that have been around for a while (last year’s ‘You’re Welcome’ was their 6th album release) Wavves are new to me. My obsession with Gender Roles led a friend to recommend I give them a go, and I agree that in parts, especially they’re earlier stuff, they do sound eerily similar. However, they’d thus far failed to make a similar impression on me.
Having said that, when I was asked along to the gig I figured I’d give it a bash. I was free that night, and it was the first time the Californian surf punks had been across to Europe in a while, with them only set to play three shows in the UK. I had a gut feel that with them being a bit of a niche act that it was going to be a special show.
It was also my first time visiting Gorilla, which is located under the railway arches at Manchester Oxford Road station. Tickets listed doors at 7:30pm so we figured that bands wouldn’t start until at least 8 o’clock, but as we walked in at 7:45 opening act Dune Rats where just starting their set. The room itself was a really nice size with the bizarre feature of having toilets and one of the bars actually behind the stage. This means you can get a spot with a viewpoint from actually behind the band, where you’re really close to the action without getting sucked in to a sweaty mosh pit (and it did get very hot).
Dune Rats are an Australian three-piece who had previously toured with Wavves down under. I was pretty surprised at how busy the venue was so early, and also the number of Dune Rats t-shirts knocking around… it looked like these guys had a bit of a cult following of their own!
As always, I’d listened to some of their stuff in the lead up to the show. They play pretty simple, but also extremely fun punk rock songs, with one guy in the crowd who seemed to be more interested in the beer than the music trying to rib them about sounding like Blink-182, which was perhaps a little harsh. The songs are kind of dumb, mostly talking about drinking beer and smoking weed, but they’re also extremely catchy.
Shouting along to beer drinking anthem ‘6 Pack’ whilst swigging from my own can of Red Stripe was great fun and there were are a ton of other really good sing-a-longers in there, such as ‘Scott Green’ (about trying to find weed at a party “Who’s Scott Green?”), ‘Bullshit’ and set closer ‘Dalai Lama’. The crowd really were in to it too, with a large section singing along the whole time. It was a really fun performance and I’m glad we got down early enough to see it.
It’s a pretty quick turnaround in between bands, and befor we know it Wavves are taking the stage. Frontman Nathan Williams is dressed top to toe in Adidas sportswear, including the classic 3 stripe track pants that all 90’s teens owned and even a pair of sambas for trainers. He also walks on with a litre bottle of Jameson’s whisky that he looks to have made a pretty big dint on already, and proceeds to pour himself a large measure. He announces that he’s come dressed as a “scally” and also that he’s pretty wasted.
The crowd get going pretty quickly, and I surprise myself with how many of the songs seem to have stuck in my head. They play ‘King of the Beach’ from the album of the same name really early in the set, which is probably my favourite track, mostly because it’s the one that was my first introduction to Wavves and also because it’s one of the most Gender Roles-esque tracks. But it’s their newer stuff, from last years album ‘You’re Welcome’ which I thought I wasn’t so bothered about that I seem to enjoy most, with ‘Daisy’, ‘You’re Welcome’ and ‘Million Enemies’ amongst the highlights for me.
The band look to be having great fun on stage – a guitar strap breaks early in the set and Nathan has to swap guitars and then in one of the most chaotic moments (and you might have had to be there to understand this) he manages to accidentally throw the replacement guitar across the stage, snapping another guitar strap and breaking a tuning peg as well as smashing in to the pedal board of second guitarist Alex. It’s a genuinely hysterical moment. It seems that they’re travelling light on this tour and so he only actually had two guitars with him… luckily the guitar tech has mended the first one in the mean time, though there’s still a slight delay whilst Alex sorted his board out and the set was able to continue.
It’s a really great crowd there. At one point me and my friend Pie were worried we were going to be the old foagies amongst a bunch of teeny boppers, as Wavves are quite pop-punky at times, and whilst there were definitely some sections of the crowd like that, it was genuinely a really good mix, with people coming far and wide to check out a band who don’t seem to make it across here all that often.
Having spent most of the set having a dance to the side of the stage in our little faux-backstage area, we also ventured into the pit towards the end of the set too, where the atmosphere was electric, the room erupting into one big hot sweaty pogo-ing mess!
I took myself off for another drink just before the end of the set, but my mate stayed in there to take part in Nathan going for a crowd surf, entering the crowd via a somersault.
And then it was all over… a fun packed, laugh out loud, energetic performance, with a really good crowd and a venue that I think might become one of my favourites. Really glad I went along, and perhaps a reminder that you shouldn’t necessarily be put off going to a gig just because it’s a band you don’t know so well.