all photos: Yacouba Tanou
all words: Rick Taylor
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a full fledged revolt against spit-and-polish production values in the indie scene of late. Oh, not everybody’s doing it just yet. You’ve still got boatloads of bands that favor squeaky clean sparkle and high gloss to dirty, deadly and echoey. But a movement is clearly afoot. So much so that I’m now starting to wonder if I should add some reverb-effect pedal companies to my investment portfolio.
Last Thursday night’s show at the Rock n Roll Hotel was yet more evidence that the indie zeitgeist is shifting toward noisier confines, with all three bands––each with differing approaches––exploring the possibilities of fuzz, echo and volume.
DC’s own The Tennis System kicked things off in fine form, with the four-piece successfully melding fairly direct and simple pop melodies to giant swells of guitar squall. Sure enough, this is a band that appreciates what made the late 80s/early 90s U.K. shoegaze scene so appealing. But unlike many of their forebearers, The Tennis System never allow the guitar thunder to outstrip the songs.
Matty Taylor ’s loping, memorable vocal lines were the lighthouse cutting through the foggy haze, and the entire band have mastered the kind of steady, slow build to orgasmic crescendo suites made notable by groups such as Ride. I’m looking forward to hearing more from these lads.
The Sacramento-based four-piece Ganglians offer a more freewheeling and adventurous take on the 60s-inspired lo-fi garage sound currently in vogue. Reverb drenched Brian Wilson-esque vocal melodies, gutter jangle, twisted folk and circuitous song arrangements were the order of the evening for these ganja-lovers.
The moody tone and high quality songwriting were made that much more appealing by the band’s singer (and occasional keyboard tinkerer), Ryan Grubbs, who imbued each track with the kind of impassioned intensity one would not have expected from a band so obviously in love with good vibes. Just because they love the green doesn’t mean they don’t take their music seriously.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Wavves going into the show. Would we bear witness to another Primivera festival-style meltdown, some bloody knuckled fisticuffs, or maybe some spoiled kid whining? None of the above actually. Indie media magnet Nathan Williams (the guitar player/singer who masterminds the group) was on good behavior, his parents would be delighted to know. Nathan even cracked some jokes at his own expense and on more than one occasion, challenged an audience member (including BYT’s own Patrick Kigongo) to a game of Big Buck Hunter.
As for the set itself, Wavves wisely chose to stick with the catchiest and most immediate moments of its discography. Opening with the blistering “So Bored,” the band ripped through cuts from both full-length albums and previewed at least one new number (“Hula Hoop”), closing with fan favorite “No Hope Kids.” No, it’s not ambitious music. It’s punk rock. But Wavves do it extremely well. And judging by the crowd reaction, that was the consensus.