UPDATED: Last Night: Wavves at Fitzgerald's

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UPDATE (April 23, 8:30 a.m.): This review has been correctED to reflect that Wavves' name is just "Wavves," and to remove references to "the Wavves."

Wavves Fitzgerald's April 18, 2013

I didn't get the memo, but apparently we were celebrating 420 early at Thursday night's Wavves show at Fitz. That place was not only sold out and packed ass to elbows, but it was also hot-boxed to the point of making me dizzy. In other words, the entire thing was too awesome. Here's what happened.

Wavves were scheduled to play in the downstairs room at Fitz. I'd never actually been to a show downstairs before last night; I have just always managed to stay in my comfortable little box upstairs, so the entire thing was new to me.

Fitz downstairs, as I soon found out, is like watching a show in someone's living room. The ceiling is low, the room is small-ish (especially when it's crammed to max capacity), and there's a feeling like the entire room is vibrating when the speakers are blaring and the crowd is thrashing around. It was a vibe I could definitely dig.

Anyhow, the second opener, the L.A.-based skate-punk kids known as Fidlar, were a few songs deep into their set when the first waft of skunkiness blew past me. It fit right in with the moment; the lights were swinging, keeping rhythm for the band, thanks to the crowd surfers bumping up against them, and the noisy punk-kid thrashing was gearing up.

A couple more songs into Fidlar's set, and I start to notice just how skunky that place has become. Holy cannabis, Batman. There was no way to escape. Between the dark, cave-like room and that ever-lowering ceiling, it was like a tripped-out version of smogging out the car, only with better music.

I wasn't planning on mentioning the openers, but damn, Fidlar was raw and rad, and I can totally respect that doe-eyed drive to play every minute of the show with full force. There's something genuine and kind of innocent when bands play shows for the sole reason of loving what they're doing. Hell yeah, boys. That's what music is about.

Wavves were up next, and their entrance kicked the oxygen levels out the damn door with the quickness. As they geared up, everyone in that crowd must have lit up. What was once a tolerable level of semi-discreet smoke became a force to be reckoned with.

Led by vocalist Nathan Williams, with Stephen Pope on bass, and Jacob Cooper on drums, Wavves released their third studio album, Afraid of Heights, on March 26 to pretty decent critical acclaim. It's an album that ventures into new territory, washing away a bit of the grime that filmed up earlier albums, while still leaning heavily on jangly hooks and depressing subject matter.

That's part of the allure of Wavves, though. They have this gritty, sandy quality that manages to combine heavy, loathing lyrics like "I'd say I was sorry, but it wouldn't be shit" with enough of a So-Cal summer sound to keep it all from slipping into more obnoxious and self-important territory.

Sure, some of the lyrics are self-deprecating and whiny, but they're dipped in the California sunshine and beach air, so it's actually quite palatable.

They opened with "Idiot" off 2010's King of the Beach album. It's an angry and self-depricating song, but it actually plays out quite well live. The punchiness of the lyrics and the lo-fi edginess push it well past the typical pop-punk formula.

Wavves played a collision of tracks that spanned all three albums, staying onstage for what seemed like an eternity, thanks to the combination of the weed smoke stealing all but about two percent of the oxygen in the room and the roasting temperatures of the crowd of people against the stage.

Standouts during that smogging eternity were "Bug," off of their Life Sux EP, and (moreso), "Sail to the Sun," a pop-punk number that's ladled with xylophones and (of course) sunny, surfy music.

Another standout of the night was bassist Stephen Pope and that ridiculous mess of hair. All I could see from the doldrums at the edge of the crowd was that curly, bleach-blonde mop dancing along, and it was fantastic. Every bassist in a surf-rock band should take notes. Oh, and his bass playing was pretty great as well, but nothing could overshadow that hair.

So all in all, it was a pretty decent show. Fidlar was a nice little dirty garage-band surprise, and Wavves continued to prove that they have some surf-punk staying power -- especially if Stephen Pope's beachy hair sticks around. For that, I'll endure accidental cottonmouth any day.

Personal Bias: The bass player with Fidlar reminded me of my little brother and his punk phase, so I was sold from the jump on that one.

The Crowd: Young, young, and super-young. Some punk kids, some strait-laced (who have probably now experienced their first contact high), but all young.

Overheard In the Crowd: "I always wondered what happened those kids in school. They're ALL HERE."

Random Notebook Dump: At one point I wrote down something like, "98 percent weed in here. Tripping." I don't remember writing it, so it must be true.

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