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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 1:33 pm | Overcast 60º


Jeff Moehlis: Wavves Makes a Huge Splash at SOhO

The 'stoner band' shows off its sunshine-kissed punk streak

To call Wavves a “stoner band” is perhaps a bit too obvious, but c’mon, the cover of their new album, Kings of the Beach, sports a cat holding a joint and wearing an all-seeing eye necklace with a marijuana leaf above its head.

Of course, “stoner band” is almost useless as a phrase, since it can mean different things to different people. There’s the heavy metal vein, which grows from Ozzy Osbourne-era Black Sabbath and is typified by Kyuss, Sleep and Queens of the Stone Age; there’s the feel-good reggae-tinged vein milked by bands such as 311 and Sublime; and there’s the jam band vein that has its roots with the Grateful Dead and includes bands such as Phish and moe.

So what type of “stoner band” is Wavves? Well, none of the above, really. Instead, there is a strong punk-rock influence to their sound, but colored by sunshine, which makes one think of Husker Du at the beach instead of frozen Minneapolis, or The Descendents with Milo going surfing instead of to college.

It was this punk streak that was on full display at Monday night’s Wavves show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, as frontman/guitarist/lead singer Nathan Williams and former Jay Reatard rhythm section Stephen Pope (bass) and Billy Hayes (drums) thrashed away at their instruments and sang falsetto “oohs” and “ahhs” to give a distorted, flanged, reverb-drenched wall of sunshine-kissed punk-pop noise.

The short songs — many, such as the great “Post Acid” and “Take On the World,” drawn from their new album — were punctuated by good-natured stoner talk, with jokes about Magic: The Gathering tournaments, stolen drinks, etc.

For example, after a particularly enthusiastic fan was booted for knocking people over, the band joked, “Let’s play another song before security kicks us out,” with the addition — and I paraphrase — “for (also) having small genitalia.” This banter was amusing, though it somewhat killed the momentum — as did a few equipment problems, such as Williams’ microphone malfunctioning during the raucous “No Hope Kids.” But from a practical standpoint, it provided breaks for the moshing element of the crowd.

At times there was a delightfully blurred line between the band and audience — in particular early in the show when Pope’s bass came unplugged so he jumped into the crowd for the remainder of the song, and when an audience member rescued a fallen microphone and proceeded to sing along. After the latter, the band deadpanned along the lines of, “Dude, I think some guy was up there singing.” Huh huh.

The diversity shown on the King of the Beach album didn’t quite come through at the concert, but by focusing on the punk elements of their sound, Wavves kept the show full of infectious energy. And you didn’t even need to be stoned to enjoy it.

Before the Wavves hit, opener Zohrk — billed as Char-Man — played another oddly charming acoustic set capped by a cover of The Who obscurity “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” This was followed by an engaging rocking set by Ventura-based band Birdfeeder.

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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