Forever I was employed at a restaurant that served people from all walks of life – but especially the musician kind. In this type of atmosphere and in the center of Los Angeles, California, it’s easy to take for granted the type of talent you are surrounded by everyday. More importantly, it’s difficult to differentiate them between an actual person and a giant, terrifying and hungry mouth that’s sprouting only feet and legs (especially when you’re in the middle of a lunch rush). And that’s what happened between me and Best Coast.
Several years ago, a co-worker pointed the bands faces out to me while they were hanging at a table in our restaurant. He compared them to the face on the most recent cover issue of the L.A. Weekly music issue and whispered that he gave them a listen and urged me to do the same, because they were pretty good. The faces with the article were a match indeed, and besides noting the girl’s awesome cameo tattoo and how rad I thought it was that they made the cover story, I didn’t care anymore because I didn’t have the time to.
Ok, fast forward a few years.
I was leaving after a shopping spree at Amoeba Records and, as I usually do, grabbed one of those amazing “What We Like” zines that I love thumbing through. When I opened it at home, there was Best Coast being recommended to me yet again, this time printed in black and white. I flashed back to that moment at the restaurant when I didn’t care. I did a double take when I read that musician/renaissance man/hero/producer Jon Brion was involved with them and it only took one listen on iTunes for me to recognize that I needed to “make what’s wrong feel right.”
Fast forward, again.
I met Elkee in the middle of a tangled mosh pit at the House of Blues in Hollywood during a Metal Blade Records anniversary show. We had an instant bond and knew right away – over Betsey Johnson – that we were destined to be friends. With similar tastes in many things, including music, it took this moment to bring me to my very first Best Coast show. And with that, we’re transported to the time and place our real story takes place.
It was Monday, October 21st, 2013 and I found myself rushing up to the Henry Fonda Theater (thanks to a freeway accident!) to meet Elkee for a Los Angeles Animal Rescue benefit show with two new-to-me bands and one I was very looking forward to: The Death Valley Girls, Baby Alpaca and, of course, Best Coast. Expecting a long line of people after the media buzz that Best Coast has generated lately and with the onslaught of a new EP AND the show being a benefit for our fuzzy friends, I was almost concerned we had the venue wrong when the casual crowd on the inside was considerably thin. But, the L.A.A.R. table greeted us as we walked into the nearly-empty venue and a small crowd was gathering on the checker-board floor in the showroom, claiming their sacred floor space and early anticipating the pummel of good ol’ rock and roll. After ogling over the gorgeously restored facility that is the Henry Fonda Theater, Elkee and I decided to do the same. And just in time, too…
As the curtain lifted, the stage backdrop revealed two hanging L.A.A.R. banners book ending either side of the stage with a stylized paint-by-number rendering of a Husky- mix breed on each. Death Valley Girls hit the stage at about 8:30. The four piece band tore right into their set, keeping their heads down and looking like a late 1960’s high school band, nervous to be playing in front of the entire school for the first time– in the coolest kind of way possible – and made it clear they were here to rock. Their crunchy psychedelic garage vibe was a great sounding board for the sweet-but-tough vocals of their female lead singer. For me, the real attention-grabber was their POWERHOUSE drummer. Even with a perfectly even sound mix, she pushed it through with every beat and made it impossible not to notice her skills. There were even points in the performance when I found myself looking for a obviously-not-there double bass drum and pedal. I enjoyed Death Valley Girls set and found their songs to be solid, but as they left the stage, all I wanted was my very own drum kit!
Between the Death Valley Girls and the next set, the DJs were pumping up the room with the kind of 90’s jams that brought me and Elkee waaay back (am I putting a date on the two of us? Whoops!). Taking a look around us at all the “current” fashions in the room, it is now finally clear to me that the 90’s have made their way BACK. Not that I have a problem with that, really. It was just a surprise for me to see this younger crowd almost unwittingly embracing the ways of grunge-rock and Beverly Hills, 90210… and for some, bad R. Kelly music videos. At this point, we noticed the crowd becoming a little more dense, making our early-claimed standing space that much more coveted. The 90’s distraction filled up the waiting time, nicely, but when the curtain lifted again, I was ready for something new.
The moment Baby Alpaca began their set, it was love at first note, for me. Not only did this three piece instantly remind me of classic new romantic/synthpop bands I love like The Smiths and OMD, they owned the part without directly emulating it. During their songs, the lights fell low and the stage backdrop became a projection screen of whimsical cloud-like visuals floating past. Their songs were skillfully pieced together with bare bone essentials while being carried by the smooth, pitch-perfect vocals of their endearing lead singer who danced around the stage playfully throughout their setlist, motivated simply by his joy of performing music. His comfort on stage was infectious and in his witty banter between songs, took the time to affectionately dedicate a love song to “the cats I met in the alley, earlier”, in lieu of the benefit. Though the guitarist/keyboardist at his side carried the show right along with him, it was the drummer I was most envious of. He actually sat out the last three songs of the set on stage while sitting behind his drum kit and just enjoying the show. Talk about the best seat in the house. Any band that is brave enough to perform without their drummer and is still able to keep an audience captivated with songs that are solely vocally driven is something I can very much get behind. It’s always inspiring to be surprised by a new great band and its what makes going to see live music so exciting. This was one of those bands for me and they made a new fan that night, for sure.
After Baby Alpaca left the stage, the crowd was buzzing with excitement awaiting their new favorite band. Behind us, the venue had filled up even more, though still not as much as I had hoped for, and whispers of which songs Best Coast were going to play started floating past me. Beside us a small gaggle of girls grouped, teeming with excitement over Instagram pictures Best Coast lead singer, Bethany Cosentino, had posted earlier that day. At least I knew we were in a dedicated crowd. It didn’t take much more than noticing those few things to find the velvet curtain on the rise again. Entering the stage was the spokesperson for the benefit, PJ Acerno, also his own personal spokesdog (the one featured on the banners!) who we learned was adopted from the L.A.A.R.. PJ thanked everyone for attending, while his dog sat calmly at his side, and after everyone gave a cheer for animals and music, he turned his attention to introducing Best Coast onto the stage!
The band kicked off their set and, needless to say, the crowd went wild. After watching several live videos of the band on YouTube, I noticed right away that they have done a lot of practicing, since then. I was always thoughtful of what I had heard, but I could tell touring has paid off for them and I love hearing a band grow in the way they have. Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno were joined by a drummer and bass player who were just as dedicated to delivering their music to the audience as they were. Each song was executed almost album-perfect, however I found it interesting that Bethany was carrying all the vocals by herself without any backing, and it did cause some strain on her voice in the middle of the set. She came back full force by the last several songs, though, and with the lips of almost every crowd member singing along with her, it wasn’t hard to see who her real backup singers were or where she got her motivation. I was also happy to hear a lot less Courtney Love in her vocals and a lot more Bethany Consentino. She played with the crowd quite a bit between songs, happy to conduct a few back-and-forth conversations about her cat, and made herself every girls hero when she expressed the woes of donning thigh-high stockings. Since I first started listening to Best Coast, I have been especially fond of Bobb Bruno’s guitar playing. For a band that writes seemingly simple surf-pop songs, he brings an element of complexity to their catalogue, and I was really excited to see him perform live. Floating along his guitar neck in a drunken/dream-like state and taking brief moments to push his glasses back up his nose, I already felt like we were good friends. As a whole, the band delivered an powerful hour of Best Coast goodness, older, newer, and some even fresh out of the oven. They gave the audience a special treat by including songs from their new EP that was to be released the following day and surprised everyone by telling us it would be available for sale at the merchandise table upon our exit (that I made sure to purchase!). I left this show with only one regret, and that was that it was over. Next time Best Coast comes your way, I urge you to get yourself to that show. A good time will be had by all.
Best Coast is the kind of band you can listen to on any occasion. With the windows down driving along the coast, over a bowl of ice cream while pining over unrequited love, or for standing next to a new friend at their concert and enjoying a healthy dose of live music created by people who work hard for a living to keep things like that alive – just like their audience does. The fact that this show was also for the benefit of homeless pets all over Los Angeles was just the cherry on top. It took me quite a few years – and a couple of friends – to finally make it to my first Best Coast show, but it was so worth the journey. In the words of Best Coast themselves, you could probably say it’s even made me a “better girl” and they’ve done this Los Angeles native proud. See you all at the next show and please keep supporting live music (and animals)!!
***** Note from Elkee *****
Thanks for stopping by the blog everyone. Ginger Leigh-Lanny Duncan is Karmic Vintage‘s latest guest blogger. She has her own blog where she shares her in depth knowledge of all things Vintage Disney click here to check it out –>…But It Wasn’t Always That Way.
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