Monday, October 22, 2007

Ah, f**k it. They're gonna have a party.

I have a massive amount of respect for Nada Surf. Rising to stardom with "that one hit" among the wave of major label signings that chewed up and spit out great bands like Jawbox, Jawbreaker, and The Dismemberment Plan,they seemed destined for the cut out bin, forever doomed by their, ahem, Popular-ity. I recall seeing them open for Jawbox in Champaign around that time and they literally seethed onstage with frustration over their label's unwillingness to back their follow-up single. And their rendition of "Popular" that night was not one of exuberance or accomplishment. It was one of obligation. Fast forward 10 years and I'm in a packed Schubas, night number two of a two-night sold out stand. The lights go down, the crowd erupts, the band takes the stage and wouldn't you know it, they opened with "Popular."

It's a move that I will triumph for weeks to come. Matthew Caws was all smiles reading the smarmy lines that transported them to MTV flavor of the month. The demons have been successfully reconciled by three albums worth of stellar new material. Instead of resting on the past, they took it upon themselves to write songs that people would want to hear even more than they'd want to hear "Popular," and with integrity, too, moving to indie Barsuk to release the remarkable Let Go.

They played perfectly and without the aid of a fourth member, reminding me a lot of Jawbreaker in their prime. The front half of the set was Let Go-heavy with "Hi Speed Soul" leading the charge into "Killian's Red," "Fruit Fly," and the feel-good singalong "Blizzard of 77." The good vibes flowing through the audience even helped quell my annoyance at bassistDaniel Lorca's insistence on smoking while singing backups. Despite a lack of crowd interaction, they were perfectly in tune with those in attendance and hit all of the right notes with their setlist choices. Two new songs were introduced into the Weight Is a Gift-heavy second half and for the encore, they drove it home with the one two punch of "Always Love" and "The Blankest Year," the latter of which prompted the entire front row to get onstage and sing along to the sentiment that most likely brought Nada Surf back from obscurity: Ah, fuck it. I'm gonna have a party.

Opener Sea Wolf was equally as captivating, albeit playing to a largely loud and inattentive crowd. Thankfully they didn't abate standout ditties like "The Garden That You Planted" and "Song For The Dead." By the time the 6 piece broke into the superb "You're a Wolf," more of the crowd was won over as I overheard more than one "Wow, these guys are good" conversations. Alex Church and band were good and left with the promise of great things to come.-B. Nanna

Photo by B. Nanna