by Chris Familton
This was a night where two bands rooted in guitar music came together from quite different directions. Wavves drew the notably larger crowd on the back of their notoriety and accesibile punk pop while Unknown Mortal Orchestra drew from the well of classic psych rock and soul music. One band caressed and cajoled their melodies while the other shouted and bashed out theirs.
The genius behind Unknown Mortal Orchestra is New Zealander (via Portland, Oregon) Ruban Nielson who formed the nucleus of that country’s well respected Mint Chicks. He has gone on to new pastures and surrounded himself with two equally masterful musicians in bassist Jacob Portrait and drummer Gregory Rogove. With the latter set up side of stage the trio set about creating a magical hourlong time-warp back through Stax-styled soul melodies and psych wig-outs that conjured up the musical ghosts of The Hendrix Experience, MC5 and Sly & The Family Stone. That might sound like it was a retro exercise yet they somehow managed to refract their music through a thoroughly modern prism, even with a traditional rock drum solo thrown into the mix.
Nielson showed what a superb guitarist he is, whether it was playing searing acid-drenched lead solos or digging deep into some minimal soul shapes. Portrait filled out the bass-heavy mix with intricate and busy bass-lines that allowed Nielson the space to fill in his dots. Highlights were frequent, particularly the soul-rich melodies of How Can U Luv Me, Ffunny Ffrends, The Opposite of Afternoon, Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark) and recent single So Good At Being in Trouble. What defined UMO’s excellent set was the movement, groove and vibrancy of their music simply distilled through three instruments, effects and and vocals.
Wavves had the audience in the palm of their hand from their intro music – N.W.A’s Fuck Tha Police. Alcohol was hitting bloodstreams, hands were in the air and bodies were starting to collide from the opening barrage of guitar chords. There is little subtlety in the music of Wavves and what is there comes in the vocal delivery of Nathan Williams who has the ability to craft super hooky melodies a la Weezer and local lads Violent Soho. The intro to Demon To Lean On was a perfect example with the punters nailing the singalong before the band kicked in.
There was little time for banter between songs and with Total Control’s James Vinciguerra filling in on drums they ripped through a set that covered most parts of the band’s discography (Super Soaker, King of the Beach, Afraid of Heights) as well as a lurching and faithful cover of Sonic Youth’s 100%. At times Wavves sail a little too close to Blink 182 or Everclear territory, hence the proclivity of backwards baseball caps and sun bleached hair in the crowd but they still do enough to mark themselves out as a band with their own voice and live they were an undeniably tight band.
The crowning moment of the set was Williams deciding to raise the bar on the standard of crowd surfing by crawling across the raised palms, dragging himself to the speaker stack and climbing it before executing and perfect front somersault back onto the outstretched arms below. 10/10 for technique and execution and then they were gone, in a haze of scattershot lighting and amp feedback.
this review was first published on FasterLouder