Joyce Manor (photos: Estefany Gonzalez)
Going out and partying the night before Thanksgiving has become a tradition in itself, making Wednesday night a satisfying bookend for Joyce Manor, Wavves, and Culture Abuse‘s US tour at the UC Theatre in Berkeley. California is home to all three acts, but the homecoming was particularly triumphant for Culture Abuse. The last two years have been a hell of ride for the San Fransisco punks — their debut album Peach was on Best of 2016 lists across the board and they have spent every waking moment since then touring the world.
As guitarist Nick Bruder began punching out the opening notes to the Clash’s “Police State” (a staple in their set as of late), there was a specific smile beaming off David Kelling’s face as he gripped the microphone — the one that says “I’m home.” The band laid down a few bangers from Peach with Kelling intent on delivering the peaceful vibes. Peach is a record about finding peace and love in a world of chaos and violence, and the boys looked visibly excited to bring those vibes back to their native Bay Area while playing to a room filled with friends and family.
Upon hearing this lineup, I assumed Wavves would be headlining. They’ve been around the longest and seem to have the most presence outside of the punk/indie community, but the middle slot ended up being perfect in terms of show flow.
This was my first time seeing Wavves. Something about their recordings never resonated with me and they never had that one song that got me hooked and acted as a gateway to the rest of their set. That being said, they immediately got the crowd moving and realized I knew way more of their songs than I thought I did, including “King of the Beach” and “Nine is God.” Lead singer/guitarist Nathan Williams brought an intensity only matched by his hair-raising stage dives; aside from the fact that diving over a barricade is gnarly, the stage at the UC Theatre is comically tall.
Once Joyce Manor came on, it was an entirely fitting end to a good lineup. Joyce Manor is the perfect night-before-Thanksgiving band. They are the musical equivalent of coming home from college for the holidays. You’re a little bit less naive and the time you’ve spent away have both enlightened and embittered you a bit, but as soon as you’re back home in your old neighborhood, you’re confronted with the fact that memories fade, but feelings linger.
The reminder of the impermanence of all things seems to haunt every house and every street, especially as the days grow darker. I think this is why their songs resonate so much with young hearts. Like Billie Joe Armstrong before him, Barry Johnson has a natural talent for capturing both angst and melancholy in the same lyric. It’s also rad that most of their songs are so short, they are able to play almost their entire discography every single set. All the hits were there: “Fake I.D.”, “Orange Julius,” “The Last You Heard of Me” and my personal favorite “The Jerk.”
As guitarist Chase Knobbe started strumming the dissonant opening chords to “Constant Headache,” it triggered this Pavlovian mechanism where the words of that song were flooding the mouths of everyone in the room. Johnson doesn’t even have to sing the infamous second verse anymore — he just sticks the microphone out and the entire room screams back with a sentiment that caps the night off perfectly.