Beanies and Brats Bring It to the Fremont Abbey Basement – 11/7/21
Show Review by Meredith Smith
It was a dark and stormy Seattle night, but that didn’t stop the crowd from flocking to the Fremont Abbey for DIY punk darlings Wavves, with support from new wave psychedelic act Flaural. The Sunday-night basement show featured beanies, brats, and driving bass lines throughout the evening. It may have been cold outside. But it was an island-themed punk party downstairs.
First up for the evening were Denver-based Flaural, self-proclaimed kraut rock with driving rhythms, intricate psychedelic keyboards, and spades of surf punk and new wave thrown into the mix. The band brought a full sound to the basement show with 4 members, including front man Nick Berlin on lead guitar and vocals and a full complement of keyboards, bass, and drums. Flaural had no problem filling the basement with smooth grooves, dance tunes, and classic kraut sounds.
While front man Nick Berlin delivered a solid vocal performance, his band members rounded out the performance with precision and a high-caliber, multi-layered show that offers more than just psychedelica to the average concert-goer. Flaural brought the energy and provided a sneak peek of sorts of Wavves’ own surf-punk tendencies through threads of their songs. Drawing comparisons from Nation of Language to Department of Eagles at times, Flaural has broad appeal and talented musicians to back it up.
Wavves – photo by Meredith Smith
Speaking of broad appeal, headliners Wavves had no problem delivering a set of nostalgic 2010-era punk mixed with new songs that hit the spot for audience members old and young alike. On tour to support a new album as well as celebrate the post-10th anniversary of King of the Beach, Wavves’ particular brand of bratty beach punk filled the basement on Sunday. Though Nathan Williams may be a self-proclaimed brat, I found the band to have a kind of immortal charm. From the nonchalant, DIY attitude with which they attacked their set to the tie-dye t-shirts and long-hair stylings of the bass player, all the way to the Home Alone drum head, there was a nostalgia, and also, a warmth not afforded to many punk bands. Some punk is so sterile that you could eat off it, with rote, rhythmic drumming and even-toned lyrics you can’t quite understand even if you wanted to. But Wavves is not that. Wavves are messy, and fun, and just. You know. Punk. The way it should be. They brought a warmth much-needed for a cold night in early November, after a long year without music and in-person events. It was as if the 2010-era of the Southern California punk scene was alive and well on that stage, minus the light powder-dusting of heroin.
Wavves came of age as an Obama-era punk band. What was there to rage against, if you were in punk in the 2010s? Other than the collapse of the auto industry and the economic downfall, not a lot of anything that a privileged white boy from California would have to write home — or several albums — about. Still, that didn’t stop Wavves from connecting with audiences through touring, producing albums, and contributing music to the pop culture pantheon, from appearances on Conan to their single on the Grand Theft Auto soundtrack. And it was that dichotomy, the indie pop crowd and the GTA crowd, that filled the Fremont Abbey basement.
The band worked their way through a mix of singles from their entire catalog, interwoven with new songs off of Hideaway, the band’s 7th full-length album (one album on their Spotify appears to be songs cut from their debut self-titled). By the time the show reached its peak, ? of the way into the set list with “Nine Is God,” a song you have arguably heard even if you don’t play GTA, the crowd was ready. A mosh pit ensued, one of the first I’ve seen in the post-pandemic punk show era, complete with crowd surfing. While I didn’t participate in order to maintain journalistic integrity, it appeared that everyone was having a good time, and no obvious injuries were reported.
The Wavves current lineup of members included three talented musicians in addition to longtime front man and creative lead Williams. Bass player Stephen Pope delivered a retro-style performance complete with tie dye t-shirts and long-ass hair. Guitarist Alex Gates remained stoic while displaying his surf punk chops. Last but not least, drummer Ross Traver showed off his skill as more than just a punk drummer with expert solos and lead rhythms that kept the band in high energy. The set included, among others, “Help Is On The Way,” “My Head Hurts,” “Demon to Lean On,” “Post Acid,” “Heavy Metal Detox,” and, of course, “Nine Is God”.
Wavves’ latest record Hideaway is out now on Fat Possum Records, and the band appears to be in a healthy and happy place, detoxing from the pandemic with live music — just like the rest of us.