Wavves with Koala Temple

Posted August 12, 2013 in

While all the über hipsters were snoozin' at Grizzly Bear, Wavves were snarlin' hard at Urban last Wendesday, Aug. 7! Photo: Paley Fairman

There’s no one here and it’s well past 9:00—par for the week day Urban Lounge course I suppose … but still. I hear Grizzly Bear’s drawing up all the summer-fun concert goers a few blocks away at Pioneer Park. Perhaps Wavves will play to an empty room. Maybe I’ll be the only one here. They’ll play and I’ll chew on my pencil and critique their performance like Grecian royalty, high n’ mighty on my own dumbass profundity … or maybe the club’s tin roof will peel back like the top of a spent tuna can. The thrumming portal will beckon and we’ll float headlong into its meaty eye. Perhaps.

I stare at the back of my hand for a while...which is stupid. I have a phone. I could call someone I haven’t spoken to in a while. I could play a repetitive temple-running game. I could ogle heavily filtered photos of my friend’s dinners on Instagram. I could sleep.
Koala Temple commandeers the stage, but do so in a very unassuming way. The singer, dressed like the Carribbean vacay edition of Sam Shakusky strums a guitar. It’s odd, but likeable, like the bit in 24 Hour Party People when “Tony Wilson” is trying to convince A Certain Ratio that wearing shorts and scout gear onstage makes them look avant-garde. “We look like the Hitler Youth!” one of them says. You’ve seen it, though.
Koala Temple lurches into something loud and jerky. It sits somewhere between the B-52s Cosmic Thing and maybe some less listenable selections from the early Meat Puppets catalog. The bass player starts threading his own groovy needle, meandering around the stage and twirling his head like a stoned barnyard animal. It’s hard to palate right now—a little too tinny, a little too scream-y—a little too much going on in one place and not enough in another. I don’t know. This aural cat and mouse continues for another song. The singer is crouching down real low now, running his pick slowly along the fretboard and gritting his teeth, thick coke-bottle glasses askew about his skinny neck. The song ends and he makes a joke that seems vaguely drunken and a little loose. He swigs a pitcher. Then they proceed to batter the dog shit out of my douchey perceptions and play the greatest song of the night. I’m not entirely sure what’s happening, but they’ve suddenly teased open a cosmic knot and flabbergasted my resistance. 
“Are you seeing this?” I keep saying to whoever will listen. “Are you seeing this?” I’m pointing like a senile little-league parent. It’s like we’ve suddenly taken off, the few of us who aren’t at Grizzly Bear, and we’re currently careening through some velveteen sonic tunnel. The stage looks the same as it did two songs ago, but the aura has turned to molten goo. The bassist is still sashaying in place, singer is in prayer position, strangling the most otherworldly wail from his guitar and a Nehru-clad keyboardist (looking more than a little like Robbie Krieger) is pawing low-end animal sounds from his music box, but there’s a newfound tonal weight about everyone that can’t be ignored. It’s earthy. It’s chiming. It’s corybantic, and it keeps us tightly in its grip, shaking us around slightly, orbiting the music and merrymaking about the stage. 
It just keeps going though. Undulating bigger and bigger, wider and wider, till it’s washed out past the club and past the stratosphere and past the stupid Grizzly Bear concert that I can’t stop referencing, a few blocks away, and seems to be ping-ponging in and around any of the satellites NASA or Russia is still keeping up there. It’s nice. We approve. We clap like idiots. There are more songs now—great songs. They flow like sparkling punch, as if they’ve taken the entire instrumental section of “Smash it Up” and mashed down into an ambient paste and we’re being hosed in it. When it does end, I want more … but there’s no encore.
More people have showed up at this point—not a ton, not “Wavves concert” volume, but more than there were in the beginning … and it’s a little more like what I expected. It’s jangly surf-punk played breathlessly and with melodic conviction. It will always bring the heads out.
There’s not a whole lot of ho-hum now. A lanky guy in his early 30s tunes up by slashing across his guitar strings, the way you’d wipe dust off a neglected iPad. A prodigious bassist with long, Sammy Hagar–esque locks plonks at a few strings. There’s a brief introduction and then 2011’s ubiquitous summer jam “King of the Beach” comes rollicking forth. 
They sound meaner than on record, more taut, as if they’re being jerked around by strings suspended from the rafters. Audience members lap it up. There’s a vibe here. My girlfriend calls it “snotty indifference” but I’m not so sure. They’re with it—they’re bashing it out hard. It seems genuine. They’re saying to us, “You fuckheads really wanna know what happened to Milo Aukerman? He didn’t go to college! He moved to Tijuana and started huffing a bunch of copier toner!  Then he killed his girlfriend and buried her in the desert! BWAHHHH.” And that’s really what it’s like. 
The set is lean and consists only of notables. “Bug” and “Demon to Lean On” and “Super Soaker.” The audience has started a push pit at this point, knocking into each other and generally acting like enthralled dunderheads … and given the soundtrack, it works swimmingly. There’s a few haphazard stage dives, and though the crowd is meager, spirit is full. It’s made evident in the cheering. It’s made evident by the impassioned, extra “yowls” vocalist Nathan Williams seems to throw on the end of his verses, getting more and more ragged as the set bleeds on. 
A few bars of Blink 182’s “Dammit” are teased for some reason. Someone in the audience asked for it. God wanted to remind us that we were all stupid high schoolers once. Maybe the band digs the song. Then it ends. Well, not before spreading out a little of the infectious melancholy of “Green Eyes” and an excellent cover of Sonic Youth’s “100%.” Then it ends.
“I never realized how heavy that song is,” I say. Again, no one answers. I’m retracing Jason Lee’s 360 ollie in the video. Early days. Video days. Washing Machine. Now I’m aimlessly wandering to my girlfriend’s car, my brain all a’flutter. Dumb thoughts abounding.
“That was good,” I say. “That was really good—much better than anything else I could’ve done today.” She agrees with a nod and we go about it. Through the crack in the window, I hear the bleating lilt of the Grizzly Bear Concert at Liberty Park. Something unintelligible is said and it reverberates across everything. The audience erupts as if on cue, smattering every trace of melody into a neutral whoosh. Then the band says something. The audience roars back. Play. Whoosh. Play. Whoosh. This pattern continues for the few minutes it takes to get home. 
With the window down, I’m reminded that the kiddies will start school this week. That Breaking Bad finales are within reach. That we’ll soon find sleep without the aid of a box fan. Yeah, I hate the summer more than almost anything (except maybe winter) … but I hate it a smidgen less when Wavves are around. Thank god Milo didn’t end up with that useless sociology degree.
While all the über hipsters were snoozin' at Grizzly Bear, Wavves were snarlin' hard at Urban last Wendesday, Aug. 7! Photo: Paley Fairman