Wheatus (Southampton Talking Heads, 07/10/15)

Frontman Brendan Brown taps away at the laptop that his guitar is being fed through, something that two audience members can be heard groaning about. They clearly seem to be overlooking what tonight is meant to mark – the 15th anniversary of the release of Wheatus’ self-titled debut album, of which all of its tracks would be played over the next ninety-minutes. This is an album self-produced in Brown’s mother’s basement, with all alleged electric guitar sounds in fact being distorted acoustic guitar recordings. An album with lyrics that lament how “she takes advantage of me, she even knows when I pee” and teasing back a school bully “you think you’re such a badass… but I saw you on the patio eating truffles with your mom”. And yes, it’s the one with ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ on it.

If Wheatus want to squeeze into the packed, intimate wooden basement-esque Southampton Talking Heads, jokingly play Pantera and Rush riffs (with Brown having to stop himself before getting too far into Metallica’s ‘One’), and perform Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ and the Jackie Chan Adventures theme song, (“It’s embarrassing knowing that your band knows that song.”) as a prelude to a frantic ‘Punk Ass Bitch’ then they can do it all they like, guys. And that is before one gets to the fact that they danced with a 12-year-old girl from the front of the audience throughout.

The band are positioned in a semi-circle across the stage, looking at each other and the audience in equal measure prepared for what feels like the most playful rehearsal session ever. Brown mentions even before opener ‘Break It, Don’t Buy It’ that the crowd have its four-minute duration to think of some songs, tantalising everyone but pointing out that they had rehearsed some “super obscure tracks” such as the as yet unreleased  ‘Zelda’, and “the most complicated song we’ve ever written”, ‘The Story of the Eggs’ (“we love playing that song… when we don’t get lost in the middle”). This throwback to the past, intimacy and spattering of rarities could not be any more ‘for the fans’ if it tried, which of course it did when all three support acts were comprised of members of Wheatus anyway – backing vocalist Gabrielle Sterbenz, wearing the T-shirt of second support duo The Hipstones, before Wheatus formed a backing band for solo singer Mike Doughty. As a result, fans can’t really be sure when Wheatus’ show truly began, especially as Doughty rejoins them onstage to contribute a verse to an extended, energetic version of the curfew-pushing ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ to close the night.

The seminal teen anthem providers aren’t teenagers anymore. Nor are most of the fans in presence. It’s times like this that nostalgia-stricken nerds might want a band of their own, in the knowledge that girls allegedly have their dreams come true when meeting 42-year-old dork frontman Brendan. Brown reflects on the matter. “We should have died a long time ago, but you have kept us going.” There is an air of not only nostalgia, but excitement by many, having waited for so long, perhaps since childhood to finally see Wheatus in person. It isn’t quite an Andrew WK-style hard party, but more a sentimental, family get together, and nobody here would have it any other way.

After all, Brown got a massive cheer for downing his drink in one. It was water. Could there be a more fitting image of pop punk for all the family?


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