Photos by Brant Stuns
It probably goes without saying that a bill featuring the snottiest punk to be making the big indie rock rounds and the most punk band as a whole to be widely accepted outside the leather vest circuit would provide an intense show to say the least. Despite high expectations, nothing really could have prepared me for what I was about to witness at Webster Hall.
As Nathan Williams took to the stage to the strains of the Law and Order theme, it was evident that despite dalliances with MTV, he hadn’t lost the playful spirit that makes him such an endearing character. Certainly that spirit was on display throughout the set as Wavves took this show to run through songs from pretty much every major release that they’ve put out thus far. Songs like “Post Acid” and the title track from last years King of The Beach were pushed to their limits in both speed and intensity. While this tactic might have been a means of compensation for opening for one of the heaviest bands that indie rock has to offer, it still provided new life to songs that might have otherwise stagnated on a stage as large as the one at Webster. While the songs from King Of The Beach were as outstanding as you’d expect, the real stars of the night were the other songs, both newer and older.
Material from the new Life Sux EP, though on record suffering some weird combination of overproduced vocals and lower fidelity guitar work, really showed its full potential in the live setting. Without all the distortion to hide behind, “Bug” sounded quite like, well, any post-millennial pop-punk song. While such language is often bandied about with derision behind it, I fully mean it as compliment. Its peppiness provided a welcome alternative to the blistering arrangements of earlier material. Songs from Wavves various self titled efforts also took on new light once the curtain of low fidelity was lifted. “So Bored,” “To The Dregs,” and “No Hope Kids” are still as petulant as they seem on record, but instead confronting us with the ear shattering buzz of the albums, Williams and Co. chose to kick us squarely in the chest, an impact that was certainly aided by the addition of new drummer Jacob Cooper (formerly of The Mae Shi) and a second guitarist. It really was an outstanding set, and one that on any other night shouldn’t, and wouldn’t, have been relegated to an opening slot.
However, this night we were in for something different. From the moment that the opening notes of “Running on Nothing,” from this years astounding David Comes To Life, blared from (noticeably large) amps scattered across the stage, the crowd was taken by an unshakeable fervor that lasted, really, for the rest of the night. Some of that has to be due to the incredible frontman that Damian Abraham is. He spent about one song that night on the stage and the rest of it along the barrier, or running through masses of people, or even at one point crowd surfing while never letting up his intense bark. It was something else to watch to see him in the middle of circle pits or helping security by lifting crowdsurfers over the barrier. It really just felt like he was everywhere. At points it was pretty easy to forget there was a band on the stage, not that they were slouches by any means. Certainly, without the powerful rhythm section, and tri-guitar attack, Abraham’s efforts wouldn’t have had their impact, but Abraham is such a magnetic performer and personality that it was near impossible to take your eyes off of him.
Given that this is the David Comes To Life tour, it is of no shock that the majority of the setlist was comprised of tracks from that album. It may be solely due to the fact that this was their most successful effort, but the crowd, and the band even, seemed so much more into it on songs like “The Other Shoe” than on earlier material. It really was cool to watch to see kids shouting along into the microphone while Abraham barreled past them, and the majority of these special moments came during newer material. It just seemed fresher, more full of life, even.
For the most part the set was a blur of testosterone, David Comes To Life, and jiggling body mass. Though in other circumstances I might argue that most of that is just a product of the style of punk music, Fucked Up really put something special on this night. Abraham himself noted, between jokes involving weed, Justin Bieber, and syphilis, that it might have been his favorite New York show ever, and for that I’m not surprised.
A man walking back to a subway stop encapsulated the feeling of the show better than I could. He said, “Man, it’s gonna take me, like, a week to calm down from that.” With all the energy that radiated from Abraham, and the rest of Fucked Up that night, such a comment is no surprise.