Falling in love: a night with Best Coast
- By Tom Noonan -
- Jul 20, 2012
It’s going to be hard for my review of Best Coast show in Philadelphia to not come off as a love letter to Bethany Cosentino, the band’s lead singer, but this isn’t exactly my fault because the band’s set seemed specifically designed for me to fall in love with her. Let me explain.
I showed up to the converted factory, that had first been a Spaghetti Warehouse, but now is a pretty sweet venue called Union Transfer, with moderate expectations. Best Coast’s debut didn’t really make an impression on me, but that was mostly because it was one of two surf punk albums that had cats on the cover and were released at almost exactly the same time (the other being Wavves’ ‘King of the Beach’). The band’s follow up, ‘The Only Place’, came to exist completely separate from all other surf punk in my life earlier this summer, and it’s sub-40-minute charm effortlessly won me over.
Best Coast is essentially a two-person operation with a constantly changing tour line-up. The founding members Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno are clearly running the show, making this known by never introducing the hired help. This is their project, and, as they’ve shown consistently throughout their brief history, everyone else is replaceable. On Monday, Cosentino and Bruno brought along a bassist and drummer to aid their effort, allowing them to sit out songs that didn’t necessitate their assistance.
This attitude towards their touring band made Best Coast’s onstage dynamic muddled, but the show was not supposed to be about the band. It was supposed to be about Cosentino. The band’s lead singer came onstage in a white sundress that projected her presence, if somewhat artificially, against a background of all black. She didn’t say much, allowing her music to bring the audience along. This may not have worked for everyone, but Cosentino’s charm and deceptively simplistic songwriting is enough to carry an entire set.
I think it was during ‘Summer Mood’ when I first realised I was falling in love, and it was all completely involuntary. This is what Cosentino does; she sings lyrics like ‘There’s something about the summer’ in a way that invites you so readily to inhabit every minute of the song. It is music that you want to disappear in; it’s just that inviting. It’s almost as if she doesn’t interact with the audience because she knows this: that her music, her voice, her warmth can do things she doesn’t completely understand, so she just lets it happen rather than forcing the issue.
The strongest part of the bands set was their encore, which included two stellar songs from their debut as well as a Fleetwood Mac cover. The strongest of these songs was ‘I Want to’ where Cosentino sings, ‘I want to go back to the first time, the first place.’ This line is so wonderfully vague that, in her hands, it can captivate a room because it serves as a screen for us to project our own experiences. This is what a Best Coast show is about, getting lost in the warmth of Cosentino’s words and allowing them to take on a personal meaning. She stands onstage in a white dress, like a blank canvas, and her lyrics allow her to be whoever you want her to be. This way, it’ll be easier for you to fall in love.
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