So, you’re Nathan Williams of Wavves. You just played a pretty disastrous show that Pitchfork, in full TMZ mode, called “a meltdown”. What do you do? Well, you cancel your next bunch of shows, and then the next day, post an apology on your personal blog…before deleting it a few hours later. Very 2009, and more like a quasi-controversy fit for Kanye’s blog than for a bratty, no-fi musician who makes sad sack surf music aimed at a tiny percentage of the population, but here we are–at least Williams’ mea culpa isn’t all caps.
Really though, Williams’ apology is a surprisingly humble, no-bullshit explanation and it was, presumably, only the too-sincere laundry list of exactly what drugs he took (“ecstasy valium and xanax”) and Williams’ acknowledgment of a drinking problem that got his Fat Possum wranglers or even just good friends to tell him to take the thing off Blogger. Let’s hope the note, despite its deletion, lives on in people’s Google Readers and now, on a bunch of blogs (and at the top of this post) and reduces the schadenfreude coursing through comments sections and the Twitterverse and lets in some sympathy.
Those concert photos accompanying the initial “meltdown” story should’ve already softened peoples’ hearts though. Williams on stage, pressing his hands into his face, mouth agape, maybe crying, at least sorta freaking-out is like a blog-hype version of Munch’s “The Scream.” Appropriate, because at the core of Wavves’ music is an (yeah, really) existential sense of dread. Sure, Wavves’ dread is tempered with bratty fun feedback and jokey weed/goth/beach imagery, but that’s just the down-to-earth vehicle for something deeply sad and affecting. Remember the second line of the hook to “So Bored” is a suicidal “life’s a chore.”
Anybody in-tune with Wavves music should’ve seen this coming anyway. If the distortion, petulant vocals, and depressive lyrics didn’t suggest it, then Williams’ awesomely disaffected interviews are the shaky preamble to late last week’s not-so-good, though hardly a “meltdown” show. An interview right here at SOTC showed Williams stumbling over questions, confessing “I’m really high right now”, and ending on a far more disturbing and hilariously knowing note: “Sadly, it’s real my friend,”said Williams in response to a question about the authenticity of his “stoner persona.” The Pitchfork video of Williams waddling around SXSW munching on pizza and explicitly mocking pretty much every person he encounters–except UGK’s Bun B, who he’s ecstatic to meet–shows it shouldn’t be a surprise when his noxious but not unfounded cynicism spilled onto stage.
Sure it’s pretty unappealing, maybe it even makes you real angry and you said you hope he ODs or invoked the recession and privilege and stuff on your fave blog, but these are the ugly, uncomfortable truths Williams was already working out in his music. Wavves’ mournful “Friends Were Gone” came to mind when Pitchfork detailed the spectacle of Wavves drummer Ryan Ulsh pouring beer on Williams’ head; nebulous, almost there lyrics about “a head full of blow” from “Surf Goths” could easily have embodied the show’s apparent stumbling confusion.
Williams’ insolent crackup–okay, maybe it was a meltdown–is like when your favorite street rapper gets arrested for gun possession (or not doing his community service after he beat a promoter with a pool cue): a hard-headed “authenticity” that’s as respectable as it regrettable. Or like those early Cat Power shows where it just sorta made sense this slinking singer of sad-as-shit songs would have trouble performing–it’d be weirder if she performed Moon Pix expertly, no? This sloppy, priggish sadness is what Wavves is all about.
Less weed, less demons, Nate. Feel better.