A match made somewhere a little grimier than heaven, the pairing of Californian pop-punk band Wavves and its support acts King Tuff, Jacuzzi Boys and Psychic Alliance was either a stroke of genius or good luck. That their show at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver would be coloured with a little debauchery seemed inevitable from the onset, and so it unfolded, with messy, booze-fuelled vigour.
When I pushed through the heavy wooden doors the scene looked like a Halloween party in a Hollywood horror movie. Vancouver-based band Psychic Alliance, the first to play of the three support acts, were dressed in white onesies, more clinical than cute, with what looked like evil eye symbols painted on the front. In contrast, a trombone player and saxophonist were draped in blue gowns. With seven people on stage the band projected big, horror-circus sounds with jaunty guitars and ghoulish vocals, hurled emphatically at the mic by lead singer Shaun Lee.
Jacuzzi Boys, from Miami, brought a more traditional atmosphere back to the theatre. Singer Gabriel Alcala played as a crisp silhouette in the fog and lights, but sound problems muddied his vocals and their show suffered as a result, distracting from some impressive jams and song highlights Double Vision and Dust.
LA-based songwriter King Tuff (Kyle Thomas) played a set of distinctively red, white and blue, stars and stripes, American rock and roll. They played unpretentious party songs with singable choruses, like Bad Thing and Keep On Movin’, with a warmth and unashamed enthusiasm that seemed to rub off on the crowd.
After their show, King Tuff’s bass player returned to the stage, now stripped down to a pair of blue jocks, to introduce Wavves.
Lead singer Nathan Williams entered the stage bottle-in-hand and declared he was already drunk, an admission that helped fuel an atmosphere of reckless abandon amongst the crowd.
Sunny nostalgia came early in the show with the frenetic pop upper Post Acid and Super Soaker, from the band’s 2010 album King of the Beach, whose catchy title track later saw the mosh pit turn dance floor for a few short minutes.
Fuzzed out slacker anthem No Hope Kids, from the 2009 album Wavvves, satisfied fans of the band’s earlier sound, but most of the set list consisted of tracks from their newest album, Afraid of Heights.
The band played Paranoid and Idiot early in the show, as well as the melodic single Demon To Lean On, the words to which the crowd knew every word.
About three quarters of the way into the 17-song set the show reached its crescendo. Williams looked confused as he fumbled over his microphone and reiterated he was drunk. King Tuff and his band returned to the stage to wreak some havoc and displays of trashy bravado ensued. The show ended in free fall and although it wasn’t technically perfect, it was charged with energy.
I had a few mixed feelings about the band, Williams can be hostile and nonchalant on stage, but part of the appeal of Wavves songs is that they can feel simultaneously self-destructive and elating, and Friday’s show was both of those things.
Written by Alicia Bridges
Alicia Bridges is an Australian reporter and features writer starting a new chapter in Vancouver. Exploring the city’s cultural side and its current affairs.