Don’t call it a backlash, Wavves meltdown in big fest gig
Andrzej Lukowski posted an interesting essay on the Wavves debacle over at Drowned in Sound yesterday. In case you’re not aware, Nathan Williams, the only permanent member of the much-hyped group Wavves, basically fucked up his set at the mega-huge Primavera Sound Festival in Spain last Thursday, playing improvised slop, mocking the audience, and finally getting into a fight with his drummer before being cut off.
Williams later blamed his behavior on the cocktail of recreational drugs he’d taken before hitting the stage. Then Ryan Schreiber from Pitchfork–big Wavves boosters there–wrote an irate blog post and the news made it to pretty much every indie-leaning blog out in the universe.
Lukowski makes a good point: “Obscure musician plays poor show. Fairly humdrum drugs involved. Woo.” If it weren’t for people like Schreiber hyping Wavves up in the first place, his fuckup wouldn’t be newsworthy–in fact he probably wouldn’t be playing a huge festival in Spain in the first place. It’s not like Wavves moves Soulja Boy units or anything. As I understand it you can sum up this part of Lukowski’s argument thusly: ))((
What I don’t agree with is his claim that this is an example of the “build ’em up to tear ’em down” mentality. I agree that such a mentality exists, and that outlets like Pitchfork can get pretty backlash happy. It’s pretty much the natural result of combining the cliched “I’m already over it” indie-rock stance with the high turnover rate of the Internet and the increasing TMZ-ification of indie-rock coverage. (Not that a lot of classic indie fanzines didn’t get by on scandal mongering. Hardcore zines were even worse.)
But this isn’t a backlash like Pitchfork’s takedown of the Black Kids, which was apparently motivated by some sort of weird guilt. This actually has a connection to something the artist has done, rather than arising solely from the internal workings of the music media. It’s more of a situation centered around an asshole who seems to be treating his 15 minutes with the same reckless entitlement a rich 16-year-old feels toward his Range Rover.
If you want people to keep liking your band, don’t consistently phone in shows. (Wavves’ recent set at the Bottle was a letdown, and I’ve heard about many more.) Don’t take 12 different kinds of drugs before you play, at least not if you can’t hold your shit. It’s one thing not to care about your own hype, and I think that’s probably healthy. It’s another thing entirely not to care about your audience.
Williams makes some really good music, and though the people who built up the buzz about him were certainly guilty of trend jumping, his songs generated some genuine goodwill. And now that’s gone. Unless he does something to earn it back soon, Williams will be too.