The tiny Schuba's Tavern (which, awesomely, used to be a Schlitz brewery) played host to two sold-out shows from perennial pop favorites Nada Surf this past weekend, and we were lucky enough to have blagged our way into Saturday night's gig, bringing a whole passel of folks with us as we sauntered in past the sad kids on the corner who didn't buy tix in advance. A special shout out to the new door guy at Schuba's who humorously dealt with my (quite) inebriated friends.
Due to a prior engagement, we missed hotly-tipped L.A. newcomers Seawolf, who, we are told but a random punter after the show that they were, "quite good and used a lot of keyboards and were vaguely Modest Mouse-ish". Nothing quite like secondhand information from a stranger to describe a band, but since we weren't there, who are we to argue?
We actually made it in just as Nada Surf were starting, Matthew Caws stating that "we didn't get a sound check tonight, so here we go". After nearly getting caught up in the 700 miles of white cotton "spider webs" hanging from the ceiling, we made it back into the music room in time to catch the rousing climax of "Popular", the band's buzzworthy hit from at least a decade prior. With that bit of history out of the way, the band set about an hour long set of favorites culled mainly from Let Go and The Weight is a Gift, but also sprinkling a few new tracks from the forthcoming Lucky (out next February) throughout the set.
Despite the omission of "The Way You Wear Your Head", Caws & Co. strung together an entertaining set that included a fantastic reading of "Hi-Speed Soul", a heavily reverb'd and quietly poignant "Inside of Love" as well as sing-a-long favorites "Blizzard of '77", "Happy Kid" and "Fruit Fly". The new songs (I believe there were 3 of them) were vintage Nada Surf, with bubblegummy choruses and strangulating basslilnes, all wrapped up in Caws' demure delivery, and all reminded of the warm, fuzzy feeling we got the first time we heard Let Go. A great, if relatively standard Nada Surf show, right up until they pulled out an absolutely gorgeous cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" that practically had the packed house drooling at its loveliness. It's a song that's been covered by just about everybody, but somehow, Caws managed to wring sublime prettiness out of the aching abandon of Curtis' words.
Only slightly bleary, we stuck around after the show to imbibe a bit more and talk to other punters about the evening. Even having a brief chat with Daniel Lorca, who graciously hung out and drank with fans until closing time. Our final assessment: Nada Surf: the everyman band of and for the people.
poster created by Jay Ryan of The Bird Machine