King Tuff photo by Suyi Tay

Angst. It’s an inevitable part of the live shows put on by Wavves, the SoCal surf rockers fronted by Nathan Williams. Last night at Irving Plaza, you could cut the angst with a knife. From the sixteen year-olds dealing with their clichéd high school dilemmas, to the middle aged punks that needed to let off some steam from their 9-5 routine, everyone got their own share of auditory therapy, whether they intended it or not.
But first, Miami’s Jacuzzi Boys instantly got the sweat sweating with their fritzy party-garage. Then came King Tuff, frontman Kyle Thomas’ garage-psych rock project. Now signed with Sub Pop, the band demonstrated their dexterity with noise. Thomas shredded distortion heavy licks from the pop-infused Wild Desire to the trashier stoner rock tracks like Anthem. Backing Thomas was his bassist, Magic Jake, whose raunchy bass lines could be felt vibrating the pants, and Kenny, smashing the drum set with scrawny arms not much bigger than his drum sticks. Between the mix of eccentric stage presence and the power chord-driven songs, the audience couldn’t get enough of King Tuff. The angst started to seep out as the throng’s mosh pit shoving began alongside the melodies of Thomas’ guitar riffs, while fans also stared wide-eyed into the electric blue, stoner friendly banner of the Was Dead album cover. As the “wrap-it-up” signal was waving in from offstage, King Tuff sped through their set’s last two tracks, and left with the crowd craving more masochism.
Only minutes after King Tuff was dethroned from the stage’s limelight, the crowd was already shouting we for the next auditory champion: “We want Wavves! We want Wavves!” After waiting another fifteen minutes, the video screen covering the stage that portrayed a black and white silent film was lifted, revealing Williams clad in his slightly oversized Seinfield shirt. The band went straight into the set with the bonus track Hippies Is Punks from the recently released, Afraid Of Heights. Williams wailed his pity-charged vocals while thrashing around the stage. It seemed Williams himself underwent catharsis throughout the performance. Amidst the violet and blue flashing lights, Williams body was chaos theory personified, not really sure where it would end up. During two of the fastest numbers—King of the Beach and Bug—Williams bounced to and fro onstage, headbanging like a true punk.
Prior to Beat Me Up, the crowd was invited to imagine a very masochistic portrayal of Williams, courtesy of right-hand man/bassist Stephen Pope’s harangue. Accordingly, the crowd members invoked the aforementioned description as they proceeded to beat themselves to a pulp. It seemed like every fan loved every moment of the show, from the crowd surfers risking the potential (and often inevitable) fall from crowd-grace by kicking their supporters, to the fifteen-year old kid still going hard in the pit, even with a blood-soaked napkin shoved into his nostril. And to the guy that randomly started playing the drums on my back during Demon To Lean On, it was an honor to serve as your de facto-trapset.
Near the end of the set, Williams made an announcement to the audience. “Look, we’re going to play the rest of this set and that’s it. There’s no point of us going off and back onstage. We’d waste your time. Go have fun with your friends!” Keeping true to his word, the band closed with Green Eyes, a choice well received by the crowd. Every audience member could be seen singing along as they shoved the person to them with whatever strength they had left. As promised, as the last drumbeats faded out, Williams grabbed his hoodie and followed his band members off the stage. A handful of kids waited a bit, yearning for a surprise encore, but it wasn’t necessary. All they had now was to reminisce, until the next time that Wavves come crashing in.
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