Wavves, Sures @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (15/05/2012)

A sizeable crowd had convened in the Live Art Space of the Oxford Art Factory as Sydney four-piece Sures took to the stage. The group’s breezy surf-pop tunes went down exceptionally with the lively audience. Set highlight The Sun stripped back the instrumentation, relying solely on its absurdly pretty vocal melody to create interest. The voices of frontman Matt and bassist/backing vocalist Beth harmonised perfectly, adding to the infectiously summery vibe that permeated the entire set. The group’s short stint on the stage was a welcome time-killer as the growing audience awaited the arrival of the headline act.

It’s hard to know exactly what to expect from a Wavves show. Frontman Nathan Williams’ stage presence is nothing short of erratic. In 2009 he suffered a breakdown on stage, resulting in one of the most spectacularly disastrous live performances in recent memory. On other occasions however, Wavves shows are loose and messy in the best way possible, with the crowd feeding off the energy of the band. Tonight, Wavves were firing on all cylinders, delivering a performance that falls well and truly into the latter category.

Opening with the title track from their critically acclaimed 2010 album King of the Beach, the California four-piece immediately kicked into full gear, hurling themselves around the stage at full pace and thrashing at their instruments with ferocity. It was clear from outset that this was going to be a punk-rock show in the truest sense: messy and amateurish, but fantastically energetic and undeniably fun.

Credit must also be given to the audience, who, to quote the mysterious Groovin’ the Moo performer that bassist Stephen Pope spent a large portion of the set mocking, were “BETTER THAN MICHAEL JACKSON!” The crowd matched the intensity of the performance every inch of the way. By the time the band were set to launch into their ode to the nicest man in rock music, I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl, Nathan Williams deduced it necessary to warn the crowd not to “step on each other’s faces”. However, it was Williams who soon found himself being mindful of others’ faces as he was carried through the crowd by 500 adoring punters.

A couple of tracks from their recent EP and an unsolicited plug for Dating in the Dark Australia (apparently it’s “good shit” and “not a joke”) later, Wavves were back to churning through the highlights of 2010’s King of the Beach, with Take On the World and Super Soaker both receiving huge crowd reactions. Sonic Youth’s 100% then got the Wavves treatment, ending up rather sloppy but remarkably frantic and intense. Some technical difficulties slowed down proceedings somewhat, although Williams passed the time well with an impromptu rendition of Aerosmith ‘classic’ I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.

Second album highlight No Hope Kids bestowed some life back upon the crowd, while Green Eyes had everyone swaying, then headbanging, then swaying again. Set-closer Post-Acid had even the completely stationary punters at the back of the room feeding off its infectious energy. Wavves exited the stage after just over an hour, concluding a truly awesome rock show that went by far too quickly.