“Weathered and faded / who feels alone in the world / you do ” is the first line you hear Dylan Minnette croon on indie rock band Wallows’ debut album Nothing Happens. It’s a declaration, not a question; suburban backstreets and shades of contempt, those indicators of youth we all seem to recognize. Universal longing and angst. Otherness. But this past Friday at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, Minnette, along with bassist-vocalist Braeden Lemasters and drummer Cole Preston, dispelled any notions of loneliness so recounted on their album.
Girls wearing scrunchies and boys in Dickies, all dancing in haggles of community under fluorescent lights. The kids at the Wallows concert are still at the age where alcohol has to be carefully stolen from parents cabinets, water bottles conspicuously brought into the venue bathroom. AP tests coming up, the stress of Prom looming overhead. Their world is so small.
And this is exactly what Wallows plays to. The members of Wallows are all in their early 20s, they’ve lived through the backyard parties and backseat drives. This gives them a sort of retrospect. And thus, their album Nothing Happens is a more removed departure from their earnest, anxious, angry, downright teenage 2017 EP Spring. Nothing Happens still echoes those sentiments screamed in the bright, lucid, blooming bedroom that was their Spring Ep, that is adolescence. But the echoes are removed, they are cinematic. Wallows has taken the ugly anxieties and gut wrenching fears of teenagerdom and made them a sweeping affair, an artistic look back in time. With rolling synths and looped production, Wallows glamorizes the high and lows of their youth in a way you only can once you've lived through it. And kids lined up around the sides of the Fonda just to hear their lives, which probably seem so mundane and confusing and hard in the moment, sentimentally narrated by three people who are testaments that youth is not only survivable, but missable.
Wallows has a dedicated fan base, and interacted with them well on stage. Having been a band for over a decade, its clear the trio has deftness when performing together. Minnette took on a more choreographed approach, while Lemasters conducted himself loosely. Preston anchored the performance with his quiet but enthused presence. Jumping into the crowd, blowing kisses,and waving to particular people built a sense of connection between the band and their audience. And though the Wallows audience is comprised mostly of young teens, the band didn’t shy away from the heavier, grittier topics of adolescence on their album. In "Treacherous Doctor" Minnette delves into in his darker thoughts, questioning if “all the things I think are important / are simply distractions from death.” "Ice Cold Pool" has Lemasters recounting the loss of his virginity to the Cocteau Twins record “Heaven or Las Vegas.” With lines such as "or am I a poster child for pity?" and "please kill me before you / tell me what you like" dotting the album, its clear Wallows set out to make a deeply emotional and introspective album. This portrayal of themes such as isolation and loss of innocence paid off, and had hundreds of teens screaming back the lyrics with memorized gusto at The Fonda.
So much happened at the Wallows performance. Drinks were spilled, photos were taken. People rushed the stage and a couple of guitar picks were even thrown into the audience. A rendition of The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry" was danced to passionately. And yet, when the crowds cleared and the stage lights went off, when all the kids went back to their AP tests and Prom worrying, it's clear nothing really happened at all.
— Britt Alphson, DJ