Both hailing from Los Angeles, Wavves and FIDLAR are probably two of the most divisive bands currently making music. Critics are torn, fans are torn: are they genuinely as immature and irresponsible as their lyrics portray? Or is it an act — a character of excess (FIDLAR > beer :: Wavves > whining) inspired by rap music’s character-driven style? The answer, as always, lies somewhere in the middle and Friday night’s sold-out show at Bottom of the Hill reminded everyone in attendance that yes, both bands intend to be, in their own way, slightly annoying. And yes, both groups write unbelievably catchy pop-garage rock songs, a style that is easy to half-assedly imitate but surprisingly difficult to deliver.
FIDLAR played a nearly identical set to their sold-out January headlining show at BOTH (which I also reviewed) and, while the crowd wasn’t quite as rowdy (leading singer Zac Carper to reminiscence about the “fucking insanity” of their last San Francisco show), the band’s energy never faltered. They opened with the whiplash-inducing “Cheap Beer” and never let down from there, running through most of their self-titled debut album, including an inspired, head-banging version of “Cocaine,” and a set-closing rendition of the unemployed-slacker anthem “Wake Bake Skate.” I overheard a few audience members mention that they only bought at ticket to see FIDLAR — fair enough, but I don’t think the band has proven themselves multi-dimensional enough to overtake the headlining Kings of the Beach.
Touring in support of the just released LP Afraid of Heights, Wavves — led by songwriter and lead singer Nathan Williams — played straight through their hits as the pit reached full intensity. Despite Williams’ preoccupation with boredom, self-loathing, and bad relationships, I saw nothing but smiles in the crowd. It’s a little detail that goes a long way to explaining Wavves’ appeal; even when Williams is crooning about holding a “gun to my head” or just calling himself an “idiot” over and over, the songs are tight and fuzzy distortion bombs that explode into their choruses. And it feels damn good — to my mind, it’s about the best “catchy” rock music can do to replicate the gut-punching, celebratory bass drops of dubstep. The bounce-pit was especially hectic for the scorching surf rock that brought Wavves to mainstream attention with King of the Beach, including the album’s title track, as well as “Post-Acid” and the falsetto burn of “Super Soaker”.
The loud/soft Cobain-inspired perfection of “Green Eyes” was the biggest hit of the night, as Williams built up to the stretched-out, fuck ’em all chorus: “My, my own friends hate me / But I don’t give a shit,” which is about as as mature as Williams gets on a Friday night (excepting the band’s late-set, iffy cover of “100%” by Sonic Youth). No matter, as no one in attendance bought a ticket to think about how to solve any problems — this was a night to whine, laugh, and brag about how miserable you are, all while wearing the world’s biggest smile. Immature? Sure. Fun? Fuck yeah.