Indie-rock veterans Nada Surf headlined San Diego’s Bring on the Bright Lights concert series on Saturday night at 4th & B in support of their seventh studio album, The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy. Following opening acts Republic of Letters, Cuckoo Chaos, and The Soft Pack (all of San Diegan droning descent), Nada Surf graced the stage with the double whammy of humility and assuredness that often eludes indie performances.
Novices, Nada Surf are not. In their twenty years as monogamous bandmates, the unironically mustachioed Ira Elliot on drums, shredmaster (and dreadmaster) Daniel Lorca on bass, and the preppy Ken-doll-like Matthew Caws on vocals and lead guitar have perfected their rocking sound and unassuming swagger. (The motley trio was joined for this tour by backup guitarist Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices.)
The setlist on Friday was similar to that of the show broadcast from NYC’s Bowery Ballroom earlier in the week on Astronomy‘s US release date — a mix of mostly new tunes exuding esoteric teen-angst nostalgia (see “The future’s made of dust / And we are all just rust in the machine” from the new track “The Future”) and older songs of the singalong variety (“I’ve got blonde on blonde on my portable stereo / It’s a lullabye from a giant golden radio” from “Blonde on Blonde”).
The band’s tendency to stuff as many words as possible into their melodies may have left many concertgoers with a lyric hangover (which for us went something like “It always feels like I’m waiting for something” / “With a clear eye and a clouded mind” / “When I was young I didn’t know if I was better off asleep or up” / “It’s never too late for teenage dreams” / “Is it true, is it done, is it over? Are you dancing, are you dancing at all?”) As he expressed gratitude for the unexpected future in which the band now comfortably resides, Caws (who, in his button-down shirt, could have passed for your high school science teacher) sagely advised his fans/students, “If you have a lot of energy, please be active.”
Caws clearly practices what he preaches. Whereas most seminal 90’s bands have long ago fallen by the wayside, Nada Surf have managed to remain active and relevant for the last two decades. Fans should be gracious toward the band’s future as well: Here’s to waiting for more somethings and fulfilling teenage dreams — even if they’re stuck in our heads forever.
Photos – Nada Surf at 4th & B – January 28, 2012
Photos – The Soft Pack at 4th & B – January 28, 2012