Words by Brian O’Neill | Photos by Tashina Byrd
Considering this was the Alt Nation’s Advanced Placement Tour, Welles didn’t seem very alternative. For that matter they didn’t seem very advanced either.
Leader Jesse Welles might be a smart guy but he has a carefully cultivated slacker persona. He hides behind thick hair that cascades onto his face and down the sleeves of his plaid shirt. When introducing songs he is intentionally aloof and comes off the same way the stoner in the back of High School English class stutters when the teacher wakes him up to answer a question.
They had a song titled “Rock n’ Roll” that was not ironic in the slightest, a theme for a band that takes cues from before the Irony Age. “Hold Me like I’m Leaving” is Zeppelin melodrama with a twist of modern melancholy and they covered The Cure who frankly should be considered classic rock at this point. Grunge was also an obvious touchstone, most notably on set closer “Crush 19.”
The songs could be stronger but the girls, who outnumbered boys at this show, cheerfully bopped along the entire set which bodes well. A real easy way to go broke is betting against bands that make young girls dance.
Of course they might have just been enjoying the hair farmer eye candy as they waited for The Regrettes. The headliners made them dance too, but also a lot more thanks to their inimitable frontwoman Lydia Night. She probably inspires many of them to be in a band instead of just watching one and the rest find her relatable with an Instagram account that looks just like their own.
Since The Regrettes emerged from Los Angeles with last year’s Feel Your Feelings Fool!, the band is amassing a cult of likeminded fans. They are drawn to Night’s brash, unapologetic take on what it’s like being a teenager in an era where her peers are more socially liberal than any generation before but they have to fight for the same rights their mothers and grandmothers thought they won, and see Donald Trump on TV every night.
She doesn’t shy away from social commentary and you can see how she has matured as a lyricist in front of everyone’s eyes. “Seashore” and “Whatta Bitch” off the debut are about Night balancing femininity and feminism while finding herself, whereas the brand new single “Poor Boy” is an angry response to the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. At one point Night said from the stage that rapists and abusers were not welcome and security would kick out anyone who caused discomfort. She takes this seriously.
“A Living Human Girl” spells out that Night is multifaceted (“Sometimes I’m girly and sometimes I’m not”) so it isn’t all raging against the machine. Girls just wanna have fun and The Regrettes spend even more time singing about crushing on boys, not unlike the ‘50s doo wop and ‘60s garage surf girls that inspired the band. They do so looking like the riot grrrls of the ‘90s, dressed down for comfort on a cold Philly evening.