Our experience with seeing Nada Surf live.
I’ve been a fan of Nada Surf for many years. I remember their first single ‘Popular’ when it was released in 1996, but didn’t really pick up on them at the time. It wasn’t until I heard ‘The Way You Wear Your Head’ by chance in 2002 that my interest was piqued. I bought the album ‘Let Go’ and was instantly hooked! That album hovers somewhere in my top 10 records of all time.
In my opinion, they only got better! ‘The Weight Is A Gift’ in 2005 and ‘Lucky’ in 2008 were brilliant. Such an incredible trio of albums!
Cut to 2012 and the release of ‘The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy’. Another great record. Around this time, I introduced Nada Surf to my eight-year-old son, Elliott, as part of his ongoing musical education. He loved their records too. I distinctly remember one time him heading out to the backyard humming the song ‘All Is A Game’ to himself. I knew I had him hooked too.
Then I read a very exciting announcement. Nada Surf were to tour Australia.
Now, touring Australia is kind of a big deal for bands such as Nada Surf. They won’t sell out arenas, but will likely do very well with smaller club/theatre shows. With a population of 25 million, and with the majority of people in the larger cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide, it is often not economical for smaller bands to come to Australia. Spending 20 hours flying in a metal tube to the other side of the globe is not fun (and it’s expensive!), and all for maybe five or six gigs. So, when a smaller, lesser-known band comes to Australia to play only a handful of shows, the dedicated fans must get in on the action.
I told my son that Nada Surf were to tour in late 2012, and he wanted to go and see them. Being an 18+ gig at a pub, it was impossible for him to attend. I told him that I would see what I could do.
I connected with Matthew Caws (Nada Surf singer/songwriter/guitarist) on social media. I humbly asked if I could bring my son to the band’s soundcheck in the afternoon so he could see the band and experience live music for the first time.
The reply from Matthew was an emphatic yes!
That was very exciting for both Elliott AND me!
The day of the gig came and we made the quick three-hour drive from Canberra to Sydney, arriving at the Annandale Hotel with plenty of time to spare. We were sitting at a table at the far end of the venue when the band arrived. The guys came straight up to us and everyone introduced themselves. Matthew, Ira Elliott (drums) and Doug Gillard (guitar) were just delightful. We chatted for a bit but pretty soon it was load-in time. Elliott was a little nervous, but that quickly disappeared when Matthew invited him to help set up the gear. With the rented drums and amps already in the venue, the guys just bring their guitars and Ira brought his brassware and kick pedal. Elliott helped Matthew open the guitar cases (to let the Les Pauls and P bass adjust to the temperature), and the two of them got into a lengthy conversation about Matthew’s effects pedals board. It was a delight for me to watch this unfold.
With Ira banging away on the drums for the soundcheck, Matthew suggested we go and sit outside for a bit. He brought his acoustic guitar with him. He noodled around on the guitar for a bit, then when the bass drum thumping from inside the hotel had stopped he played Elliott a song. Standing there on the footpath, me kneeling beside him (and my wife recording video), Elliott got his very own personal performance of the song ‘Waiting For Something’. My little boy was speechless. It was a wonderful moment.
We moved back inside where everything was set up and ready to go, and Daniel Lorca (bass) had arrived (he’d been at Bondi Beach). Now, normally a soundcheck is pretty quick, just a handful of songs that feature all sounds/instruments so that the sound mixer can get everything perfect (subject to putting 500 humans in the room!). Because Elliott was there, Matthew decided to give him a real treat and led the band through nine or ten songs. My boy got his very own Nada Surf gig!
The time came to wrap things up, it was time for an eight-year-old to go and eat dinner and settle into our accommodation around the corner. All of the band members came down to shake Elliott’s hand and wish him well. We thanked Matthew profusely, the guys headed off for their dinner break, and we took the short walk to our hotel. Our boy chatted excitedly the whole way.
I went to the show later in the evening and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was wonderful to see the band play live after so many years of listening to their records. Truly one of the great shows I’ve witnessed. After the show, I waited around as the venue cleared. Matthew came down after getting changed and we had a quick chat. He was thrilled to be able to do something so special for us and Elliott in particular. Matthew said he had a son the same age as Elliott and that the boys were very much alike.
Matthew is known for picking up his acoustic guitar and playing a few songs after a show, to the delight of the punters left hanging around. About 20 of us were treated to another five songs in the small front bar of the hotel. Another special, intimate performance. Matthew and I said our farewells and I wandered off to my accommodation where my family was sound asleep.
As I walked I thought about just how great the day was. We experienced a spectacular afternoon and evening of wonderful music, and we met some truly impressive humans. It doesn’t take much to make a little boy and his dad happy. All we had to do was ask! Thank you, Matthew.
First published in The Riff at Medium.com, on 26 April 2021.