Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Mar 26th 2010 11:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
"We had nothing," he told the audience, explaining how the band financed the sessions with a cross-country tour, paying its Los Angeles recording engineer with money it had made selling T-shirts on its way out west.
"He wanted more, but it was all singles and fives," Caws said, possibly not joking.
The year was 2002, and if Nada Surf was broke, it was finally headed toward the kind of career its members had always envisioned. 'Let Go,' the New York City trio's third album, was its first not recorded for Elektra, the major label that had dropped the group several years earlier, deciding its sophomore effort, 'The Proximity Effect,' was devoid of hit singles.
What the label really wanted was another 'Popular,' the 1996 smash that had momentarily vaulted the band into the bigs. The tune -- an ironic spoken-word jam about high school politics -- sounded like nothing else on Nada Surf's first album, 'High/Low,' a collection that hinted at the group's true power-pop identity.
Watching Caws and company tear through such bright, effervescent tunes as 'Happy Kid' and 'Inside of Love,' tracks two and three on 'Let Go,' the anomalousness of 'Popular' became that much more apparent. Recorded, if what Caws says is true, on a shoestring budget and fueled by sheer will, the album boasts a spirit of optimism and relief that shone through Thursday night.
It made sense that the Bowery Ballroom should be filled to capacity with both 20 and 30-something fans. Nada Surf's music has just enough grungy edge for the Nirvana generation and earnest sentiment for those reared on emo a decade later. For folks whose age or tastes land them in neither camp, the songs offered plenty of ringing hooks and smiley melodies, delivered with infectious enthusiasm.
At one point, Caws said he views the world as a series of pluses and minuses. Thursday, the pluses were winning out. Sure, he had a cold, but his band was well rehearsed -- his mother and sister were in attendance; his stepfather was at home, recuperating from a "very successful" operation -- and earlier in the day, he'd found his car to be free from parking tickets, despite having been left overnight in an illegal zone.
Caws' good mood carried over into the night's second set, as Nada Surf followed the 'Let Go' material with a dozen more songs, roughly half of which came from 'If I Had a Hi-Fi,' the group's new collection of covers.
The band closed with the anthemic 'The Blankest Year' from 2005's 'The Weight Is a Gift,' a record it will play through Friday night at Brooklyn's Bell House. "Oh, f--- it!" Caws sang, backing away from the microphone and allowing the audience to sing the right-as-rain refrain: "I'm gonna have a party!"