Burger Records does it right. Their shows have a feeling to them, an underlying level of both chaos and throughlines that makes for some of the most fun punk, rock, and indie shows in Southern California. Before the night begun, a young lady wearing church attire (red sweater button-up, simple skirt) spun the opening house music on vinyl, carefully choosing the right tunes for the night’s performance. The doors opened at 7:00 but the first band didn't start until after 8:30, giving the packed crowd more time to push their way to prime screaming range. They jostled their way up to the front before the opener even hit the stage, dying to get a prime spot for the headliners.
Singer/guitarist Gabriel Alcala switched on like a man raised on menthol and Creedence Clearwater Revival, turning a harder edge than the remaining bands. The motto might just be “hooks be damned, solos will rule the day” as the trio lays out a bed of pure rock drive while Alcala jumps all over it. The combination of some sturdy bass and the frantic yet wieldy drum styling pays off faster than anticipated, giving the band their own niche in the noisey fuzz rock universe. Jacuzzi Boys have seem to matured faster than their brethren while nearly perfecting the trichotomy of thrash trios, following in the footsteps of The Stooges if Iggy and Ron Asheton melded together. They play the soundtrack to the abstract weirdness that is Florida, their home state and launching ground. Definitely a band worth watching.
King Tuff has a deceptive look and sound, producing a pseudo-Southern backbone with the drum and bass sections until singer/King Kyle Thomas just goes buckwild on his guitar. He rips multiple shredfests per song, never content with just the first. If the Jacuzzi Boys got the crowd into a sweat, King Tuff figured out how to expel that sweat. Very danceable and headbangaable, all at the same time, crossing boundaries with each track. Bassist Magic Jake smiled the whole time, wearing an American bandana with medium-length blonde hair poking out like a vintage Hulk Hogan. Garret Goddard on drums pulls off the Chad Smith look but with a simpler kit and more attention to the bass drum.
Surprisingly, they were able to strum a ballad or two without losing face. One of the more appealing aspects of this new wave of garage rock is the enhanced sensitivity. Nearly gone is the borderline misogyny caked in to too many "dude alone in his room” records and in its place is a semi-doo wop attention to the yin and the yang. Thomas pulled this off quite well, relishing in his not-so-macho vocal style and showing a confidence needed to pull it all off.
When Thomas wants to show off his picking and strumming skills, he leaves the band behind and escalates the song into something more. Dude abuses his axe each song, crescendoing each finale like it’s the encore of a two-hour set. He was even able to pull out and use an inhaler without missing a beat. A couple songs dip into too simple territory, but the overall vibe is stellar and worth the price of admission.
The orange flying-V bass from Stephen Pope and neon green guitar by guitarist Alex Gates burst out of the drab pastel house lights muting the band. If King Tuff’s theme was one of glow-in-the-dark semi-psychedelia, then Wavves was going for the lucid and happy comedown. The crowd went nuts from the moment the band stepped on stage and didn't stop crowd surfing just about all night. Singer Nathan Williams has the boyish charm yet rugged angles built for driving his female fans nuts, even if they are ten years younger than he is. Pope did most of the rocking out, putting his semi-blonde mane to good use. Their off-stage antics and larger-than-suburban-life mythos pulls a ton of fans in, but their carefully constructed near-pop punk keeps them dancing. The speakers inside the Observatory oozed the white noise and high-pitched vocals into one digestible slime.
They played their Grand Theft Auto V-exclusive track “Nine is God” and it got a big pop, as most tracks do when attached to billion-dollar mega hits, whether it be movies, games, or TV shows. Much like with the Madden franchise, having a song in GTA exposes the band to a new audience that is more willing to check out the band’s past work. The set list stuck to the past two releases, definitely the band’s most prescient material to date. "Afraid of Heights" mended a little bit of what "King of the Beach" tore up, never getting as deliciously sloppy as a song like "Idiot" or "Super Soaker."
Williams' most impressive talent is his ability to belt and sing without sounding the least bit whiny, something his peer group has trouble with when establishing a song's narrative. He doesn't take command as much as he just begins and you're expected to join the ride. The neo-skateboard DIY surf rock fires the same neurons as a FIDLAR but far more efficiently. A few eerie pieces add to the overall mystique of Wavves, a band built for recreating Las Vegas runs ala Fear and Loathing. The entire package is more carefully orchestrated then it gives itself credit for, as under the fuzz is a traditional plateau of rock hooks, built on the backs of two to three chords.
The band is on a steady pace forward, putting out better material each year and establishing themselves as a killer live band. When they can slay sold out shows and keep growing an army of fans, there should be nothing stopping Wavves except for Wavves. Hopefully they embrace their position as the best version of this garage revival, inspiring not only new bands to take the reigns but allowing them to not be as aggressive or ridiculous as some of their competitors.