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Friday, September 17, 2010

Wild Nothing Gets a Dance-Happy Popscene Crowd Swooning

Posted By on Fri, Sep 17, 2010 at 8:08 AM


Wild Nothing

@ Popscene

September 16, 2010

Virginia's Wild Nothing probably could have picked a more appropriate venue for its San Francisco live debut. This Pitchfork-adored new wave outfit seemed as humble and shy-spoken as C86-influenced bands come. And the band's jangly bedroom pop is the sort of music that compels you to brood rather than boogie.

Popscene, on the other hand, is the sort of venue where any polite conversation is usually thwarted by bass-heavy DJ music and the dance-demanding presence of a disco ball. Just last night, for example, whether it was out of celebration for the Giants slaughtering the Dodgers just blocks away, or simply out love for the indie favorites that DJ Miles was spinning, the crowd was absolutely eager with dance steps from the moment the doors opened. One would think that they were being set up to be disappointed by Wild Nothing's stiff-legged, tame demeanor.

Yet thankfully, no one in the audience seemed to expect Wild Nothing to be all that wild. Initially, it might have seemed strange that the band's bouncy single, "Chinatown," elicited less excitement from the crowd than "The Witching Hour." After all, the former is a joyous synth-pop gem, while the latter is the most emotionally bare and fervid song from the band's new album, Gemini.

But in retrospect it makes perfect sense. Fans don't listen to this music to dance. They listen to it for the same reason that people listen to The Smiths -- to soundtrack living sensitively. Once the band took the stage, the entire front row was occupied by young girls who were swaying and swooning with their eyes closed. The fans seemed more focused on paying attention to the lead vocalist, Jack Tatum, and mouthing his lyrics, than on dancing the night away. The sheer emotion behind Tatum's romantic crooning and dreamy guitar playing has clearly helped this band build its following.

At least so far. A new song debuted last night seemed to suggest a turn towards even more dynamic territory. In the song, a tom-and-bass-driven beat set the stage for dueling guitars that took turns breathing fire and slicing metal, a la Sonic Youth. It was one of the most ferocious songs of the night -- and it gave extra weight to suggestion of a random drunk fan, who yelled early in the show that Wild Nothing should "play the Fillmore next!"

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias:
Between A Place to Bury Strangers and Pains of Being Pure At Heart, I'm really burning out on this new shoegaze revival. Unless something really shakes up the scene, Wild Nothing may be the last of it that sparks my interest, especially since other more boundary-breaking styles have been absolutely exploding with creativity and freshness.

Overhead in the crowd:
"Play Love Song! Pictures of You!"

Live, the lead vocalist sounds a lot less otherworldly than in the studio: "Guess what. I've got a fever! ... And the only prescription ... is more reverb!"

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Aron Fischer


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