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The first time I ever saw Best Coast, they shared a bill with lo-fi surf rockers Wavves in a rather chilly fall. They took the stage before Bethany and her crew, totting beach balls, palm trees, and so much paraphernalia my brain was too in shock to even remember what it all was. Everyone around me let loose, dancing like petulant children laughing at what was wrecked in their path, clearly not as overwhelmed as I. A shorter set than expected (that’s what happens when all your songs linger around the two minute mark) left me waiting for the day Wavves would return at the perfect time: summer. Finally, three years later, the boys did just that.
First, Boston’s The New Highway Hymnal opened. The three piece band were, if anything, loud. Their music aims to crack walls in a garage, rock songs so sludgy and thick that it gets too hot to breathe. All screaming aside, guitar work that becomes psychedelic and drowsy at points brings similarities such as The Doors and even Sonic Youth to mind. Noise rock such as theirs is inspiration to break things around you and then gaze at it for an hour afterwards, something you feel like fans have done before at their shows.
Before any bit of the music is discussed, the stage setup mandates addressing. Projections were cast onto the wall behind both The New Highway Hymnal and Wavves in what looked more like visuals for Tame Impala or Black Moth Super Rainbow than an upbeat, goofy band like Wavves. During both sets, two men stood on each side of the stage behind their own instrument: a classroom projector. Instead of turning the Paradise into a middle school classroom, they ditched the math equations for glass clock faces. When swirled around in dyed goo (the resulting magic of baby oil and candy dye), two petri dishes with squirming bacteria were displayed. No one expected the perfect background imagery of on-the-spot projections to be done with, well, real projectors.
California let Boston borrow Wavves for what could not have been a more perfect night. A 21+ crowd had filled in the Paradise and I was expecting sophisticated people enjoying Wavves without the crazy dancing seen last time. I was wrong.
Dancing and moshing are inevitable at a Wavves show, and the age restriction for the show had no effect on that. Almost half the set was comprised of tracks off 2010′s King of the Beach, an album that eats, sleeps, and dreams of giddy, chaotic antics–what summer is all about. Remaining songs included newer bits like “Demon to Lean On”, the leading track off their excellent new album, Afraid of Heights, and “No Hope Kids” off their second album, Wavvves. The result was an audience who couldn’t get enough, including their merchandise guy who stood on top of his table the whole time so he could watch their performance too.
Bassist Stephen Pope’s hair was the mop used for dancing instead of cleaning, shaking on his head to whatever movements he made. If fans needed inspiration for reckless dancing apart from their music, Pope’s hair was the runner-up. Next in line was singer/guitarist Nathan Williams who delivers each line without any care towards proper accuracy, pronunciation, or delivery. Even slow songs felt like heavy summer songs worthy of a Wayne’s World scene.
It was their drummer’s first time playing with the band, previous drummers including Billy Hayes of Jay Reatard’s band and Zach Hill of Death Grips, and his spot-on playing could have fooled anyone. Rapid numbers like “King of the Beach” and “Super Soaker” were held up to their high tempo numbers without difficulty, much to the crowd’s delight. Thanks to drumming that never once lagged, Wavves songs were as energetic as their recorded versions. Snaps to his opening drum part in “Post Acid” for revving people up to yell out the chorus lines of “Well I’m just having fun with you” in blaring unity.
“You guys have a lot of Irish pride, but you should be proud whatever you are,” said Williams towards the end of their set. “I’m a mutt.” The band then went into a cover of Sonic Youth’s “100%” off their 1992 record Dirty and followed it up with their own much loved track “Green Eyes”.
Inevitably the show had to end, but all were left pleased. The band gave full energy for their set, the audience got to hear both favorites and old tracks, and even the bouncers got a round of applause for their friendly reception of yet another rowdy Wavves crowd, years after they first swing through with Best Coast.