"One of our speakers was fucked up by that pedal," explained frontwoman Bethany Cosentino. After some hurried plugging and adjusting by the Firebird's sound guys, Best Coast charged into "Goodbye," a track from its first release "Crazy For You." Cosentino's voice has a pleading quality that could be cloying if it weren't so beautifully heartrending. Listening to "The Only Place," a celebration of California's many naturalistic virtues, I almost feel homesick even though I didn't grow up there.
The same yearning for her home state infuses songs about "love and life and everything in between" (Best Coast's official inspiration for making music, according to their biography). The set was an almost even split between the newest record, "The Only Place" and "Crazy For You," although for me one of the highlights of the evening was a new song from the band's forthcoming EP "inspired by the 'Clueless' TV show theme song" called "Who Have I Become." (Why not write a song inspired by "Clueless"? I'm unfamiliar with the TV show, but I was thinking the song would also provide a great backdrop to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). A series of sound issues plagued the band most of the evening, most of them imperceptible to the crowd but clearly frustrating to the band; at one point, Cosentino apologized from the stage, saying, "This has been an amazing show, but as far as stuff going wrong with sound goes, one of our worst nights."
Best Coast is known for its laidback beachy vibe, but the musicians were all business onstage, marching briskly through each three-minute pop gem while the crowd bounced, swayed and swooned. Cosentino offered cursory introductions to several of the songs, which included a couple new ones ("I Don't Love You Now," "This Lonely Morning" and "Fade Away"). With a voice thickly wrapped in effects that made her trademark croon sound as though she were singing underwater, Cosentino and bandmate Bobb Bruno (along with their touring bassist and drummer) hit every chord, every note, with the kind of practiced precision that made it sound as though you were listening to the record in your living room. Still, I enjoyed the band much more live -- there was a depth to the sound that doesn't always translate to recordings, and the new material seems very promising. Watch for Best Coast's new EP in late October.
Opening act Bleached -- Los Angeles sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, formerly of Mika Miko -- suggested Dum Dum Girls' younger cousins: the same fuzzy combination of '60s Shangri-Las vocals and subject matter (boyfriends) and '80s Go-Gos attitude (punk with a smack of bubblegum). Their catchy record, "Ride Your Heart," was made to be played for a club like the Firebird: tossing their Kool-Aid dyed hair and leather jackets, the sisters struck just the right balance between throwback and modern with their lo-fi, girls-in-the-garage sound. Perfect listening for a ride on the New York City subway or during a sleepover with your most tattooed friends.