Wallows delivers indie rock perfection in San Francisco

April 10, 2022, 9:48 p.m.

Wallows deserves the hype. With an effortless superstar aura, the band’s Thursday night performance at The Warfield in San Francisco would have had the same impact whether performed in a garage or Madison Square Garden: the venue shrunk to hold only you and the band. Led by the charismatic Dylan Minette and charming Breaden LeMasters on vocals and guitar, with drummer Cole Preston rounding out the band’s three central members, Wallows immediately captivated the audience with an intimate, rehearsal-like vibe. Yet, despite their unassuming persona, the band’s skill and passion for their music was evident, with crystal clear live vocals and energetic instrumentals. The members were in sync and comfortable, confident in their rising popularity with a clear identity and musical voice. 

Though the band’s six members walked onstage unceremoniously in T-shirts and cargo pants, the crowd’s reaction was explosive. The crowd’s energy stayed high throughout the concert, and for good reason. Just about every song was a fan favorite, and Wallows gave each a worthy performance. In addition to songs off their new album “Tell Me That It’s Over,” the band played hits off of their previous album “Nothing Happens” (2019) and EPs “Remote” (2021) and “Spring” (2018), as well as their breakout single “Pleaser” (2017). Though the music was largely true to the recordings (especially the vocals, to a wildly impressive degree), slight changes to the arrangements made things special. The versatile group played around with the instruments for each song. In addition to guitars, bass, drums, keys and synth, the band also brought out a trumpet for a few songs, played by Danny Ferenbach. Minnette held a guitar, tambourine and harmonica. 

The band members’ individual skill as performers was clear, and they balanced each other perfectly. As a lead singer, Minnette, also known for his role on Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” didn’t disappoint. Wearing his signature sweater vest, he exuded a natural stage presence, walking confidently across the stage and grooving along to the beat, his points and nods eliciting screams from the adoring audience. While slower songs were accompanied by an emotional Minnette gripping the microphone, faster songs had him dancing and delivering guitar solos. 

Breadan LeMasters performing with the band

While the outgoing Minnette broadcast his energy throughout the crowd, a more subdued LeMasters was able to engage with fans individually. LeMasters gave shout-outs to the balcony, wished fans happy birthday and received gifts including a bouquet of flowers and a homemade Shrek hat, which he wore for the rest of the set. Standing alongside Minnette’s larger-than-life personality, LeMasters also had his moments in the spotlight, with his guitar solos and smooth vocals taking center stage. The group was so comfortable playing together that the performance could’ve been a jam session of a group of high school best friends (which, given Wallows’ teenage origins, it kind of was). The group’s bond was obvious in its performance; each member’s instruments and vocals melted together easily into a resonant, joyful sound.

The relaxed tone of the show was emphasized by set choices. A bare stage with only a few mic stands and scattered white floor lamps added to the feeling of being in a homey, personal space with the band. The lights (including the color-changing lamps) glowed warmly, unobtrusive but a perfect complement to the music. A credit to the technicians, the lighting on stage seemed almost alive, with pulsing purple light serving as the heartbeat of a ballad and bright red accompanying the beating heart of a rock song. 

The band clearly knows and loves its audience and gave them a great show accordingly. Several songs included well-known sing-alongs, most notably “Are You Bored Yet?,” during which Minnette prompted an overjoyed crowd to sing Clairo’s verse. Though Clairo was absent, the concert did have a surprise guest. Toward the end of the set, Lydia Night, lead singer of pop-punk band The Regrettes, ran out onstage to wild cheers. Night joined Minnette on the melancholic “Permanent Price,” and her moody backing vocals complemented the song well.

In an otherwise flawless set, Wallows’ only visible slip-up occurred during the up-tempo “Marvelous,” sung by a tambourine-playing Minnette. After mixing up some of the lyrics during the song’s rapid introduction, Minnette quickly called to restart the piece, telling the audience that they deserved for the band to perform the song correctly. If anything, the crowd was more excited the second time around; they were honored that Minnette would do it over just so they could sing along to the right lyrics. The ensuing performance was a definite high point in the set.

A passionate fan sings along to the music
(Photo: CAMERON DURAN/The Stanford Daily)

The band’s closeness with its fans was similarly evident during the group’s encore. After the band played its last song (and Minnette threw his pick into the audience), the crowd soon began to chant “one last song!” After leaving us waiting for a minute, the band returned, lamps pulsing green light in time to the infectious rhythm of “Hard to Believe.” Minnette asked a fan to choose the next song, and after a few moments setting up, the band performed an unexpected performance of “Ice Cold Pool.” Crowd favorite “Remember When” rounded out the encore — the actual ‘one last song,’ as Minnette joked.

spill tab, also known as Claire Chicha, was well-chosen as opener. Her performance — a mix of relaxed aesthetics, relatable lyrics and dance-worthy instrumentals — matched Wallows’ energy to a tee. The singer was joined by bassist Caleb Buchanan with a minimalist setup of a laptop and a couple mic stands. Just as every great opener does, spill tab got the crowd grooving along even though most of the audience was unfamiliar with her music. She also dipped into some acoustic covers, including Usher, Kelly Clarkson and Moses Sumney, inviting the crowd to sing along. The highlight, however, was her original songs “Velcro” and “Grade A,” whose higher tempos got the crowd amped up for the main act and encouraged at least a few of us to give her discography a good listen.

The Warfield, a beautiful, ornate place decorated with wooden paneling and rich, deep reds, was occupied mostly by high schoolers wearing bright patterns, tote bags, wide leg jeans and chunky black platforms. At my first concert in over two years, I was delighted to see the tradition of wearing your coolest outfit to a concert is still in practice (albeit with a few more masks involved). 

The band and the venue’s commitment to the fans was clear throughout the night. Water bottles were handed out, paths into the pit stayed clear and paramedics actively surveyed the crowd. Following their example, the audience was energized but respectful; the venue was comfortably full, but members of the crowd left each other enough room to breathe. Midway through Wallows’ set, Minette took a few minutes to ask a crowded section to take a step back and offered more water. “Whatever you guys need,” he said. “We want you guys to be comfortable.”

Fame looks good on Wallows. I have no doubt their stardom will continue to rise in the coming years. Their talent speaks for itself; no pretense necessary. A must-see live show, the Tell Me That It’s Over Tour is undoubtedly the perfect moment to catch this group amid their ascent to indie rock greatness.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.

Cameron Duran '24 writes for the Arts & Life section. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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