It’s not easy clawing your way out of the “One Hit Wonder” hole. Nada Surf, fronted by Matthew Caws, with bassist Daniel Lorca and drummer Ira Elliott (of the Fuzztones), have been fighting the good fight since the 1996 release of their song “Popular.” The novelty single was almost impossible for the band to recover from.
I was lucky enough to attend their show at Harlow’s in Midtown Sacramento on March 25. Opening for Nada Surf was the band Sea Wolf. Sea Wolf is a six piece band, with a sort of dreamy Indie sound reminiscent of bands like Matt Pond PA.
Unlike the average opening band, which you would generally talk through and check your watch during, Sea Wolf caught the attention of the audience and kept it for the entirety of their thirty minute set. Lead singer Alex Brown Church was definitely the driving force of the band. While the other band members seemed vaguely distracted and only occasionally glanced at the audience, Church kept his focus on the fans. It would’ve been nice to see the rest of the band a little more engaged in what they were doing.
With songs like “Middle Distance Runner” and “Winter Windows,” Sea Wolf was far more enjoyable than the average opening band.
Nada Surf launched into their set with the high-energy single “Hi-Speed Soul” from their 2002 album, “Let Go.” Daniel Lorca’s enthusiasm for the bass was pretty obvious from the get-go – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a bassist’s pelvis move more enthusiastically. Matthew Caws is, if anything an incredibly solid guitarist. And any fan of the Fuzztones is well aware of drummer Ira Elliot’s prowess.
If you enjoy bands like Rogue Wave or Death Cab for Cutie, Nada Surf just might be a band you’d like to check out. Over the years, their sound has mellowed out just a little bit. More polished, more together, but still powerful and with introspective lyrics, their appeal is being realized across the music industry. Recently, a number of their songs have been played on 106.5 KWOD, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Nada Surf played a set of more than twenty songs. They focused more on tunes from their last three albums, although they indulged the audience with a performance of “Popular,” without a hint of bitterness that I imagine many bands would have been unable to contain.
Caw’s stage presence and interaction with the audience was impressive and energetic, he had the sort of charisma that could get the whole audience dancing. In fact, he DID get the whole audience dancing. During their number “Inside of Love,” Caws convinced everyone to do a little side stepping dance with him, while they sang along. It was the sort of thing that made you smile, and let you know that the band really was paying attention to the audience.
An impromptu birthday song to one of their roadies also made the audience smile, and his chattering between songs never got irritating. They sounded tight, like a band with such a long history together should. Their closing number, during their second encore, “Blankest Year,” was performed with a joyous chorus of “Aw fuck it! I’m gonna have a party!” With a call and response going on between the audience and Caws, it was a great way to end the night. I think just about every member of the audience walked out with a smile on their face. If you get the chance to catch Nada Surf, I highly recommend that you take it. I promise you’ll be a fan after the show.