Indomitable smile

Fast, fun rock at Moxie’s

Watashi Wa’s Seth Roberts.

Watashi Wa’s Seth Roberts.

Photo By Tom Angel

Watashi Wa & The Actual
Thurs., April 8

The evening was littered with the black T-shirts, tattooed forearms and tight jeans of the young indie and emo rock set. And on Moxie’s little stage a little man with a pink paisley telecaster guitar stood next to a red-shirted goof who was overlooked by a tall and long fellow wearing glasses. Across the front of this long fellow’s T-shirt were the words, “Self-evident.”

This was the Los Angeles band The Actual. The little man with the pink guitar was Max, its singer, and he began the set alone singing a one-man love song to the crowd. His throaty vocals, somewhat reminiscent of both Perry Ferril of Jane’s Addiction and, probably more appropriately, Blair Sheehan of the emo rock band The Jealous Sound (formerly of Knapsack), were both touching and threatening. And at the moment the band bashed in, halfway through the song, I swore I felt what they were going to do for the entire evening: play lovingly loud, amazingly explicit rock ‘n’ roll.

As the set wore on, and as the crashing cymbals and brash guitars cajoled the loping bass into relevance, I expressed a brief gasp, and internally I felt the screeching waaah! of the free soul. The set never dulled from this excitement. In fact, it teetered on an edge of suspense: “Could they keep up this intensity?” I asked myself.

Max, caught in a frenzy of dashing and dancing all over the small stage, curled the neck of his guitar into squawking feedback, and I sat enthralled at the sound and feeling emanating from these three youths.

The headlining band of the evening was the San Luis Obispo-based Watashi Wa, which played a loud and harmonically rich set of emo-ish power pop. However, what was striking about this group was its attitude. This band continually expressed optimism. And the feeling it seemed to create in the room was felt similar to joy.

Its charismatic leader, Seth Roberts, began the evening by injecting the crowd with his optimism. “We’re glad to be here and we’re glad you are [glad to be here] too.”

Roberts never strayed from this strategy. Of the second song he said, “This song’s about good things.” With each song the band played one could ride the smiles and steps of sound to a chorus of goodness and good feelings. “We’ve got it and so do you,” the musicians seemed to say. Roberts appeared to be laughing, stumbling around because he felt so good.

This optimism enabled Watashi Wa to do what most bands who tour through Chico aren’t able to do: get the audience to stand right in front of the stage. Roberts simply invited people to stand up front. He called it an "open invitation." And as I heard him yell out, "Come on!" a great smile appeared on my face and stayed there for the rest of the evening.