At some point I have had to ask myself – “do I really need to write about this?” – as if the world needs another review of the Best Coast show last Tuesday night at Terminal 5 in Hell’s Kitchen. In the last 48 hours, I’ve already seen three reviews of the show from Rolling Stone, Brooklyn Vegan, and NBC New York’s Nonstop Sound blog. Certainly writing anything about this show by me constitutes amateurish repetition of masterful music blog journalism. To what extent do Best Coast’s beach bummy, hookalicious, teenaged chick friendly rock tunes, and the odd pairing of pop babe Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno (whose puffy man-child looks peg him for an audience member at Comic Com) really deserve so much attention anyway?
I’ve rationalized the writing of this review, however, by reminding myself that I am usually the only one who reads my posts – so who cares how many major online publications have already covered the show. My observations here also represent a therapeutic endeavor – the mere mention of the band’s pretentious name evokes fits of annoyance directed at conceited, snobby, Arnold Schwarzenegger-loving southern Californians – and I must vent. Having grown up in the Salt Lake City area in the 1980s when thousands of southern California families were fleeing the overpopulated, heat-soaked, crime ridden “Only Place,” for surrounding western states, I spent much of my formative years tolerating relocated So Cal teens who thrived on bashing the dull, provincial rusticity of us Utah hicks. I still carry this chip on my shoulder, about which I am often reminded by my recent ex-roommates from Pasadena who once told me while driving through Vermont, “Know why there are so few people here? – they’ve all moved to LA.” Ahghhh!
It is in this context of loathing for the citizens of the Most Hated State (according to the Huffington Post last February – Utah came in 5th place) that I ventured with great trepidation to Hell’s Kitchen. Although no great fan of the band that has made California-love a major part of its identity, I do regard their latest album, The Only Place, much more favorably than Amanda recently expressed in her fine review on the subject. I was also curious to see if the “I heart California” pretentiousness was really legit, or if Cosentino and Bruno approach their regional fondness as more of a tongue-in-cheek gimmick, and how all this would play in the capital of the other best coast.
In any case, the space in Terminal 5 – where young bands with strong followings usually attract sold out shows – offered the ideal site for a giddy, sunshiney concert in the cynical East. Perhaps it was the smell of sun and sand that Best Coast swept into town, but this particular show featured probably the youngest crowd I have seen for a rock concert since I went to Men at Work in 1982 at the Salt Palace (I was eleven). The bulk of those standing in my immediate proximity could have been no older than seventeen, as exemplified by the six make-out sessions taking place around me and one young woman nearly knocking me over in her haste to embrace her boyfriend during the performance of “When I’m With You.”
In spite of all the juvenile, angsty hijinks conflated with the regional pompousness I grudgingly report that Best Coast puts on a darn fine show – or rather, Cosentino puts on a darn fine show. It didn’t take me long into the concert to realize she is the real deal. Awesome pipes – great stage presence – and a pretty good musician to boot (she even took over bass guitar duties for “How They Want Me To Be”). This chick can also write some cool rock tune hooks (“The Only Place” while never failing to push me into a frenzy of loathing for all things Southern California, is the song of the summer). At one point in the show, Cosentino remarked that the crowd represented their largest audience so far, and Best Coast used the energy in the room to invigorate their hook-friendly hits. There were a few brilliant moments in the show and one snoozer (the performance of “Dreaming My Life Away” – as the title suggests – was more suited for curing insomnia than playing at a spirited rock show). The intriguing performance of “Up All Night” departed significantly from its studio version with Bruno’s pronounced swanky guitar riff backing up Cosentino’s solemnly cute yet authoritative voice reminding me of the subtler moments found in the Go-Gos catalogue. During the five song encore, the band performed a Fleetwood Mac cover (always a good thing) of the song “Storms” where Cosentino confirmed the enormity of her vocal chops.
I was happy to see that the duo had brought a band (drummer and bass player) along for the show, but I would like Best Coast to add an additional female member (maybe a brainy Asian chick bass player) who could provide some back-up vocals for Cosentino (the full vocal sound the band achieves on their studio recordings was notably missing in the performance, especially during “The Only Place”). From the get go, it was also clear the young audience did not share my indignation for the regional favoritism that Best Coast evokes (my working theory is that most of the crowd was made up of members of the senior graduation trip from Rydell High).
Although my enthusiasm for the show certainly hasn’t changed my attitude about Southern California, this venting exercise has proved much more effective than uncontrollable screaming and physical aggression against concrete walls in decreasing the rate of adrenaline production inspired by any and all expressions of California chauvinism. Maybe I’ll go watch The Terminator now (boy, I’m glad nobody’s reading this).
Check out the performance of “Up All Night taken at the show for Brooklyn Vegan.
The pictures of the audience and t-shirts from the show were taken by Chris La Putt also for Brooklyn Vegan.