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All words: Andy Johnson All photos: Farrah Skeiky

When I arrived at the Rock N Roll Hotel Saturday night, the bouncer asked, “Are you 21?” I answered, “Yeah, of course.” He then looked my ID up-and-down and inquired, with some suspicion, “Are you sure?”

I thought this was an unnecessary follow-up to ask a 28-year-old, but I wasn’t offended. Whatever. But upon entering the mostly-empty club, and noticing the extra security and taped-up “NO CROWD SURFING” signs, I understood the extra scrutiny. There were going to be a lot of kids at this show, and they were going to be acting dumb.

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UK’s Cheatahs took the stage shortly after 8 to a quarter-full audience. In contrast to the bratty, skate-punk of their two tour mates, Cheatahs sounded like an uptempo shoegaze group circa London 1991. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they sounded like the great MBV, but a more apt comparison would be to Ride or Swervedriver. These cats can’t really sing either, but it didn’t diminish from a propulsive and impressive set. I, for one, will be looking out for their forthcoming debut album.

LA’s Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk (FIDLAR) didn’t hesitate to jump right into their buzzy single “Cheap Beer,” which got the mostly underage crowd moving. (It is somewhat ironic that many were unable to partake in the $4 Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboy special, but so it goes.) On the whole, the band’s screeching, quick-witted punk songs focused on getting drunk, doing drugs, and being a drag on society.

Singer/guitarist Zac Carper’s rough vocals are a passable facsimile of The Hives’ Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, particularly on “Stoked and Broke,” where he sings about cocaine and “shitty pills.” I’m also certain the venue’s security did not appreciate Carper encouraging the audience to crowd surf, which caused several rambunctious kids to get bounced during the raucous finale of “Wake Bake Skate.”

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The sold-out crowd finally packed the club in anticipation of Wavves’ pessimistic pop-punk. The surprisingly diminutive Nathan Williams—curses on making “Wavves height” an impossible search query after naming his new album Afraid of Heights—and his group, former confederates of deceased Memphis punk saboteur Jay Reatard, appeared onstage at 10 and ripped through an efficient, hour-long set.

Opener “Idiot” started the night off with a burst of energy, as Williams sang, “I won’t ever die / I’m a hero in my mind.” The setlist was dominated by songs off his most recent albums, but he also included early single “Friends Were Gone” and “Bug”, the strongest track off 2011’s Life Sux EP. The audience’s energy remained high throughout the night, but Wavves’ biggest hits, “King of the Beach” and recent single “Demon To Lean On”, were the evening’s highlights, even if it was somewhat disturbing to watch a gaggle of undergrads scream, “Holding a gun to my head.”

Near the end of the set, Wavves even threw in a respectable cover of Sonic Youth’s “100%.” It didn’t blow me away, but kudos to Williams for selecting one of the few songs in the Yoof’s catalogue that could be successfully reinterpreted by a Southern California punk band without sounding like dogshit.

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Previous Wavves shows were sloppy, even disastrous. This was a straight by-the-books affair: professional and tidy. Such professionalism, or whatever maturity you want to bestow upon a guy who still sings a lot about weed and self-flagellation, provides a better sounding show at the expense of any truly crazy moments. Williams rarely interacted with the audience, except to confuse the 9:30 Club for the Fillmore Silver Spring during a monologue about DC.

There was one genuine moment. At the end of the night, during “No Hope Kids,” Williams jumped into the audience to crowd surf. In the ensuing chaos, Williams was accidentally gobbled up by security. Once free from their grips, he rushed to the back. There was no encore. The show was over by 11 o’clock, just in time for curfew.

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