The indie world rarely raises its flanneled ears to celebrity gossip — except when it involves their own kind. Within this sector of semi-musical obscurity, headlines like “Kirstie Alley Eats Own Dog…by Accident!” are replaced with “OMG M.I.A. is Preggers” or “Miley Cyrus Disses Radiohead.” The most recent talk of the town, however, is “Wavves Self-Destruct in Barcelona.” Wavves, the lo-fi superstars, rode the Pitchfork hype train to success this spring, all the way to Barcelona’s Primavera Festival. There, the band experienced, in the words of Pitchfork themselves, “the most epic onstage meltdown a band of their small size could conjure.”
Though the incident was far from bald Britney fighting with an umbrella (it involved booing, bottles, spilled beer, and, of course, hurled shoes), the meltdown itself is a remarkable occurrence, because it evidences the incredibly peculiar and disastrous indie phenomenon of “hype backlash.” While Wavves is nowhere near mainstream success (grimey beach punk has little place on most people’s iPods), they have become too successful within their respective scene. The most self-righteous of bloggers love nothing more than to be “that guy.” These are the folks who get moral highs off of using the word “overrated” around bands like Animal Collective, Passion Pit, and Arcade Fire. In the blogosphere, dismissing the very bands they helped bring to glory is not hypocritical — it is a virtue.
Pitchfork Media, the papas of propelling indie band X to stardom, is now in an awkward situation. After blessing Wavves with the coveted “Best New Music” award (with a respectable 8.1 album rating), exclusive video coverage for Pitchfork TV, and a premier spot on Pitchfork summer festival stages, Pitchfork now has to squish the very baby they birthed. With cold accuracy, Ryan Schreiber, Pitchfork’s founder, eagerly chronicled the meltdown from the sidelines:
“At 3:00 a.m. sharp, having dodged their share of bottles and even a shoe (neither Nathan nor Ryan was hit, although Nathan likely made impact with some unlucky attendee upon forcefully returning the latter object back to the crowd), the show mercifully came to a screeching halt: Ryan ran offstage, throwing his drumsticks at Nathan. Infuriated, Nathan screamed into the mic, ‘Come back here, motherfucker, we’re not done yet!’”
Overrated or not, Wavves has had the double-edged privilege of being “blogworthy” — a band that people first love to love, then, as word spreads, hate to love, and finally, when the bubble bursts, love to hate. The photo from meltdown, a picture of Nathan Williams grasping his face like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” and a subsequent cancellation of Wavves’ European tour hardly seems like a fair outcome. It’s a blog-eat-blog world out there, and to them, this is child’s play.