Live: For Some Terrible Reason, Best Coast and Wavves Play Zero Songs Together at Webster Hall

02/03/2011 2:33 PM |

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If you walked in the door expecting the kind of stoner kid rambling and pop culture references their Twitter feeds bring us every day, you were probably pretty disappointed. Halfway through Wavves’ set, I found myself wondering if the one thing Twitter has ruined more than anything else is stage banter: When a musician spends all day sharing every single thought that crosses his or her mind, perhaps it makes some sort of messed up sense that when it comes time for them to perform, in front of a room full of actual people, they’d want to kind of keep to themselves for a little while.

This is exactly what Wavves frontman Nathan Williams did for the majority of his band’s set. The whole thing was surprisingly businesslike—aside from one lonely belch into the microphone, he had no more than a few words to say between songs, and when he did speak, it rarely went beyond simple a thank you. “It’s good to be in New York,” he said at one point, “even though it’s cold as fuck.” That’s about as unruly as things got.

And it felt like sort of a blessing, actually, insofar as there was nothing distracting from the fact that, even for all the talk about lo-fi recording and the general scrappiness of the band, they’ve become a pretty serious force in a live setting. The playing is as tight as it is unfussy, an the melodies shine in a way that they never quite manage on record—they seem even snottier, a little more defiant, possibly even something approaching tender. Watching it all go down, taking not of how effortless it all seems, it’s hard not to wonder what kind of record this guy will make next, and even harder not to hope it puts on full display what he’s capable of rather than covering it up with sub-par production.

This line of thinking carries over into Best Coast’s set too: When you really get to observe the kind of power Bethany Cosentino has over a room, even one the size of Webster Hall, and even as she generally tends to fumble her way through things (at one point she played about 30 seconds of a song without realizing her volume was turned all the way down), and you then factor in just how strong and affecting her voice is, you can’t help but wonder what direction she’ll head in when this first wave of success dies down. You can sense that she’s growing restless with the formula that’s gotten her where she is—she’s started playing around with the arrangements of her older songs, altering melodies here and there, with really great results. “Crazy for You” packs a greater punch these days, and remarkably, so does the already A cover of Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City” has even become a live staple of late—she spent an entire album talking about how she can’t live without her man, and now, in this perfectly languorous drawl, she’s saying she’ll kick the ass of anyone who messes with him. It’s a subtle shift, but it feels important. Or we want it to, anyway.