Live Review: Nada Surf @ Ottobar — 11/16/21

Nada Surf rocks a packed Ottobar on Nov. 16, 2021 (Photo by David LaMason)

One of the shows I had been hoping to see after a year and a half of not having shows was Nada Surf, the New York-based band that’s consistently put out album after album of great guitar heavy gems, whether it be old favorites like “Popular” or “Always Love” or their ninth LP, Never Not Enough, released on Barsuk Records last year which is filled with the kind of hook-filled rock, like opener, “So Much Love,” that grabs your brain and holds on tight. Nada Surf has always had great songs, but I think the songs on this new album are some of the best they’ve created.

Having missed the last time they came into DC, I was thrilled to see the band was coming to the Ottobar — a long time coming but walking into the club Tuesday night I felt right at home. And it wasn’t long before the opening band, Pom Pom Squad hit the stage. Although they weren’t on my radar before tonight, they had a pretty sizable following and most of the crowd seemed to know them pretty well. And it’s no surprise, as vocalist, Mia Berrin, commanded the stage as the band seemed to emote pure energy.

Pom Pom Squad

As the club filled up and Nada Surf took the stage on Nov. 16, I looked around and was struck by how this band draws not only older fans, like myself, but fans in their teens and 20s who know all the words and sing along with a passion.

Nada Surf is Matthew Caws (vocals/guitar), Ira Elliott (drums), Louis Lino (keys), and Daniel Lorca (bass), though Tuesday there was one notable change in the line up with Ed Valauskas of The Gravel Pit fame taking over bass duties for Danny who, as Matthew pointed out, was recuperating after an injury. Having postponed their tour due to venue shut downs over Covid the previous year, there was some concern that things might be canceled but the band persevered and ended up putting on one heck of a show at the Ottobar.

Starting off the set with my new favorite, “So Much Love,” the band proceeded to hit all the right notes (no pun intended) going from the thundering “Hi-Speed Soul” and “The Plan” to “Looking Through” and the song that in a perfect world would be a massive hit, “Inside of Love.” In fact, I can’t believe that most of the entire set isn’t regularly being pumped through the speakers of every dorm room, wedding hall, and barbershop from here to Juno.


It was great seeing this band play off each other as Ira, one of the most expressive drummers around, hammered out the rhythm as Matthew went back and forth between Louis and Ed. But some of the best moments were near the end of the set and during the encore when the band came back out to play “The Way You Wear Your Head,” the hit, “Popular,” “Always Love,” and got the crowd singing along “Oh fuck it, I’m gonna have a party” to “Blankest Year.”

But my favorite of the night was after the encore, the band stayed for one more with all of the band members singing sans mics and with Matthew strumming an acoustic guitar as we all sang “Blizzard of ’77.” Another amazing night with some fantastic songs to take us into the night.

Watch Nada Surf perform “Blizzard of ’77” live for KEXP on YouTube:

Nada Surf wraps up their tour this month, but definitely catch them if you can here.

The set list included:

So Much Love
Hi-Speed Soul
The Plan
Friend Hospital
Killian’s Red
Looking Through
Inside of Love
Concrete Bed
What Is Your Secret
Happy Kid
Beautiful Beat
Cold to See Clear
Do It Again
Live Learn and Forget
Blonde on Blonde
Looking for You
See These Bones

Just Wait
The Way You Wear Your Head
Always Love
Blankest Year
Blizzard of ’77

Here are some more photos of Nada Surf performing at the Ottobar on Nov. 16, 2021. All photos courtesy and copyright David LaMason.



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