A line of self-proclaimed “beach goth punks” wait outside the Echoplex venue in Echo Park on a warm fall evening. They’re waiting for any word of extra room or any whispers from scalpers for extra tickets for the WAVVES show. Those who were proactive with the purchasing of tickets hurry to suck in their last cigarettes before the Miami-based trio Jacuzzi Boys grace the stage. Merch boys and girls dawn Halloween-esque costumes for the mid-October show, bartering packages of stickers, glow-in-the-dark pins and pull-over hoodies. Guitarist and vocalist Gabriel Alcala took hold of the stage and immediately injected grooves into the crowd with the first song, “Panther,” his shaggy-mop covering his face. Alcala orchestrated the stage crew to “hit the lights” and the strobe lights flashed on as teens thrusted their heads back and proceeded to get lost in the blinding live show. Playing an assortment of tracks from their latest self-titled album Jacuzzi Boys, the trio made sure to include other tracks from their first album No Seasons. Apologies can only be assumed to be handed out to those who obtained a migraine in between the fog and strobe show. With the trio scrambling to unplug and reconnect guitars, watching Jacuzzi Boys surely made it feel like we were all at a local garage show. The trio’s electric surf-rock sound echoed from the stage louder and louder as each sip was taken from their tall can of PBR. Teens pressed up against the barricade as Jacuzzi boys ended their set with “Fruits” from No Seasons. Gnarly dolphin noises nostalgic to something like a Beach Boys sound, but on acid, filled the air. One could blame the fog fluid to have added to the atmosphere/vibe, but the Jacuzzi Boys out on a solid show with more music and very little audience interaction. Could have done without the excess fog machine, but with Halloween around the corner it can be forgiven.
Pledge allegiance to King Tuff with their red, white, and blue banner strung up high and mighty over the drum kit. Decked in a patriotic headband, cut-off jeans, vests, and punky pins, King Tuff provided much more of an audience interaction, asking, “How many f-cking freaks are out there right now? You’re all freaks on the outside.” The crowd screamed in response before lead guitarist and frontman Kyle Thomas dove into “Bad Thing” with his signature high-pitched vocals. Showing off their fun punk personality with clean vocals had the sea of fans singing along without having to think too hard over what it was to chant. King Tuff made sure to challenge those brave enough out in the crowd to stage dive during Wavves’ set. In comparison to Jacuzzi Boys’ set, King Tuff provided more of a fun, party feel on stage for the audience to engage in. Thomas selected a young guy fan to come out on stage to acquire a free King Tuff necklace in order to be a “rock’n’roll warrior his whole fucking life” and told him to hold off on the “selfie.” Rushing the kid offstage, Thomas tore up the guitar during “Anthem” before crawling under bassist Magic Jake’s legs. Their live performance matched their fun nature from their album and their merch table and represented what Burger Records is all about. Innovative fun and kooky music that gets all the hip kids on the tips of their Doc Martins as they convulse to the infectious music coming from the fifteen-foot speakers. By the end of their set, all of us were hailing King Tuff.
With minutes before the headlining set, the Echoplex buzzed with an antsy crowd. San Diego natives WAVVES welcomed the rowdy crowd as they stumbled onstage. With a modest introduction, their first song “Post Acid” caused an immediate reaction, with bodies flying toward the stage. Frontman Nathan Williams’s vocals were fun and clear, but it was the catchy guitar riffs that made the band truly exciting to watch. With a ying yang banner hung behind them, WAVVES provided a show that satisfied everyone’s jive. Guitarist Stephen Pope had a glow in the dark guitar that made a pleasant visual on the stage. Immediately once bassist Stephen Pope strummed the beginning of “Demon to Lean On,” the crowd erupted, singing along. Hands were up and feet stayed off the ground as everyone jumped and pumped their fists in the air. The disco balls that hung from the ceiling couldn’t discourage crowd surfers from making their way above the mass bodies.
Williams gave the the next song on the setlist, “God is 9” a bit of back story, explaining it was written specifically for the video game Grand Theft Auto V. Sure enough, a kid took up King Tuff’s previous challenge and ran from the stage, dodging the clutches of security and stage dove on fans and other bodies surfing the wave. Backs up against the wall were nonexistent as everyone got swallowed into the crowd. “This song is about getting beat up,” interjected Williams, and the crowd responded by punching their neighbors and the mouth of a mosh pit opened up, shoving, pushing, and punching swirling within.
Although their sound weaves into the trending genre of surfer rock, WAVVES have proved to be ahead of their time, as they’ve been a band since 2010. Nevertheless, although trendy, they were still able to make true rock music that doesn’t come off as influenced by sampling and merely repackaged for the floral-crown-wearing pastel hipster chicks.