"Are you here for Joyce Manor or Wavves?"
That was a common question overheard last night (November 13) at the Danforth Music Hall for a co-headlining show shared by the two raucous California punk bands. Oddly enough, there seemed to be two largely different but equally passionate crowds there for both bands, with only some crossover in their fanbases.
A third California group, punk rockers Culture Abuse, kicked off the night with songs from their rowdy 2016 album, Peach. Alongside a tenacious wall of fuzzy guitars, frontman David Kelling — with his hood up covering his eyes and a maraca in hand — bounded around the stage barking his vocals, driving the energy level up in the room. The five-piece kept it short and ended their 30-minute set the way it began: fast, loud and distorted.
Wavves, led by the cheeky Nathan Williams, came on second and launched into the zany, Green Day-inspired "Way Too Much" from their fifth album, V. Then, the hammering, jangly title track of 2010's King of the Beach initiated a messy mosh pit looked over by an unkempt Stephen Pope, who swung his long curly blonde hair around while he pounded his flying V bass guitar.
Williams' songwriting combines slick, snotty hooks with meaty three-chord riffs; "Demon to Lean On" and the title track from 2013's Afraid of Heights best exemplified Wavves' lo-fi yet massive sound — yet some of the energy was lost in the half full room.
"Daisy," from their newest record You're Welcome, featured more of Wavves' goofy side, with guitarist Alex Gates' wiry guitar riff and Williams' bratty vocals front and centre. The majority of Wavves' longtime fans weren't as tuned into the new material, and definitely went more berserk for the scuzzier garage-punk stylings of their earlier work.
Wavves ended their set with crowd pleasers from King of the Beach: "Post Acid" saw the night's first crowd-surfers go up and featured the loudest sing-along during the rapturous chorus ("I'm just having fun with you!"); during "Green Eyes," the band's last song and the closest song Wavves' has to a ballad, Williams took a sprint and did a front flip from the stage into the outstretched arms of the audience.
As Wavves exited the stage, there was a mass concertgoer interchange, as Joyce Manor fans made their way to the front. Of the current wave of emo bands, Joyce Manor may have the most wild and devoted fanbase. From the first few snare hits of "Beach Community" from their self-titled debut, Joyce Manor fans promptly flipped out, shouting the first verse ("I lost it all in a beach community / Where it was lost is not all that clear to me") with frontman Barry Johnson's unravelling wails.
Joyce Manor's melodies were ripe for the legion of pop-punk kids to scream along to while they bumped around in the writhing mosh pit. Older fan favourites, like the scrappy "Constant Headache" and the minimal "Five Beer Plan," were doused in extra sweat as Johnson delivered his most abrasive vocal performance and fans matched his output.
The quartet played a huge number of songs in their hour-long set, with most of their songs hovering between one and two minutes. "Schley" and "Victoria," from 2014's Never Hungover Again, were driven by the sticky, luminous guitars from Johnson and Chase Knobbe, while more crowd-surfers careened through the air.
Their newest album Cody marked a shift for Joyce Manor towards a more measured, less manic approach to their songwriting, so songs like "Eighteen" and "Last You Heard of Me" afforded some breathing room between the band's breakneck older material while still providing the instinctive catchiness of Johnson's restless vocals that fans know and love.
Later, as Ebert's chunky bass line began the introduction of the highly infectious "Heart Tattoo" from Never Hungover Again, the crowd instantly went maximum bananas as they sang the opening line, "I want a heart tattoo / I want it to hurt really bad!" The quartet kept the endless sing-along going by following it with the one-minute scorcher "Catalina Fight Song" from the same album.
The night was full of reckless but fun-loving rock music, although the large venue choice took away from a more intense atmosphere that a smaller rock club may have granted. Still, both Joyce Manor's and Wavves' biggest fans came together and jumped, moshed, crowd-surfed and sang to the two band's most beloved songs.