Photos by Neel Bonthala
It quickly became apparent that the Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles was the perfect stage for Nathan William’s beach indie-rock outfit, Wavves, to take on. The venue was an intimate space connected to a bar and quaint pizza parlor, a welcome accompaniment to live music. The carefully curated energy of the room was clearly a hearkening to the beachside, with boards, grinders, and rolling papers littered around for sale.
Wavves has been in the game for over a decade now. Recording his first two albums in the backyard of his parent’s house at only 21, Nathan Williams barrelled onto the scene championing a noisy, angsty sound that immediately caught the attention of major music blogs. The success of Wavves would only continue to grow as Williams ventured into new niches of sounds, including the masterfully put-together King of the Beach, with some help from Death Grips’s drummer Zach Hill. An explosion of beachy pop riffs, noisy drawls, and psychedelic melodies, King of the Beach cemented Wavves as one of the most impressive projects of the decade. Wavves has been all over the music world from collaborations with Big Boi from Outkast to the prolific producer, The Alchemist.
Joining Wavves was Cloud Nothings, a Cleveland indie-rock band that at first glance appears to be cut from the same cloth as Wavves. Signed to Williams’s own label, Ghost Ramp, Cloud Nothings also began as a solo project by frontman Dylan Baldi, a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Together, Baldi and Williams both released a collaborative album in 2015 called No Life for Me, a pop-rock experience with a punky punch. Having never listened to much of Cloud Nothings’s music before, I was excited to see what they had in store.
The show began promptly as the crowd was still trickling in from the entrance. First up, the opener Ultra Q took the stage. What first appeared to be an unassuming group of four shattered all expectations. Ultra Q’s frontman, Jakob Armstrong, belted out powerful yet delicate vocals over a flowery wall of guitar, while the bassist, Kevin Judd, stood in the corner shredding on both his instrument and a little drum pad, pushing the dimension of the band’s sound further. At one point during the band’s performance, Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings even came out rocking a saxophone to imbue a bluesy tone into the cloud of music.
Jakob Armstrong – Billie Joe Armstrong’s youngest son – proudly carried the influence of shoegaze, punk rock, and emo on his shoulders, curating an intensely emotional, dreamy sound. The electric haze of sound lingered over the air, with energy surging through the crowd as the audience became pumped for the performances to follow.
Ultra Q was not on stage for very long, promptly wrapping up before the majority of the audience arrived. Once the floor started to pack in a little tighter, Cloud Nothings commanded the stage with the poise of veterans. What immediately caught my eye about the band was Jayson Gerycyz and his giant kick drum with “Jayson” scribbled over it. While both Dylan Baldi and bassist Chris Brown (not to be confused with the more controversial Chris Brown) put on impressive performances, Gerycyz obliterated multiple drum solo performances, elevating the performance from what might have appeared to be a small indie-rock venture into a full-on thrash, psychedelic, and punk experience all wrapped into one. After just the first song, Gerycyz looked like he had run through pouring rain, sweat dripping from his brow as he chugged a Modelo.
But he was far from over.
The band ran through their varied discography, sweeping across the sonic landscape with beach-pop tracks to heavier garage rock. In the middle of a drum solo, Gerycyz slammed the snare drum so hard that it broke off its hinges. That drum had a family. The next few minutes were spent in awkward conversation as the team behind the stage scrambled to find a replacement. I was slightly worried that this hiccup may have disrupted the flow of the group. My concerns were quickly assuaged, however, as Gerycyz immediately dove back into his drum-guru groove.
By far one of my favorite moments from the night was at the tail-end of the band’s performance. What began as an expected rock performance evolved into a drawling psychedelic experience. The group drove off script, leaving the audience watching in awe as the band had a little jam session. Oddly intimate yet intensely captivating, the band left us on a powerful note. Before the group officially disbanded from the stage, the fans made sure to give Gerycyz his flowers, cheering and shouting out praises for the prodigal drummer.
Finally, the main act of the night was about to commence. Shuddering from intense anticipation, the crowd surged forward as Nathan Williams and his crew had their grand entrance out on the stage. In typical Wavves fashion, Williams greeted the crowd with a Modelo in one hand and his guitar in the other. Knowing what the audience came here for, he then set the Modelo down and dove straight into “King of the Beach”.
At this point of the night, the entire floor was jostling. There were fans that had brought giant stuffed animals to mosh with, people were crowd surfing, and there were even attempts to scramble up on the stage. There was no such thing as a single mosh pit. In fact, the entire floor was the mosh pit – a testament to just how electrifying the energy was. Wavves made sure to sustain the energy, running through their most popular songs on King of the Beach while also playing other fan favorites like “Afraid of Heights”. Reveling in all his drunken beach pop glory, Nathan Williams spurred the crowd by the floor into two in preparation for a wall of death. On his command, the two sides of the floor came crashing together like a tidal wave. The crowd erupted as Williams paid tribute to the legendary Rockstar game, Grand Theft Auto V, where Wavves was featured on the soundtrack with the song “Nine is God.”
With the energy slowly winding down, I thought the show was close to its finale. However, Nathan Williams had one more surprise in store for the ravenous fans. With a catchy riff, Williams leaned into the microphone, singing the words:
“Green eyes… I’d run away with you…”
Immediately, the crowd jumped into each other, with people taking their shirts off and twirling them in the air. Wavves absolutely crushed “Green Eyes,” bringing back a shining vitality to the crowd. Then, the band broke off into an impromptu jazz session, breaking down the iconic hooky riff. As the jam slid to a resolution, Williams finished off yet another Modelo and embraced the crowd. As quickly as they appeared, they disassembled from the stage – only to my best guess – to have another Modelo.