Best Coast/Male Bonding/Small Black
Wednesday, September 29
Better Than: Going to a show in California.
Just before Small Black took the stage at the sold-out Bowery Ballroom tonight, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino was Tweeting (what else?) about how she wished she were at the Drake show instead. Sounds about right. She doesn’t seem to take her band, or its success, especially seriously. You get the sense that her prolific output in the past two years is less a result of creative urgency than just writing down the first thing that pops into her head.
What she does take seriously are pop-culture icons (like Drake) and prospective pop-culture icons (like her cat, Snacks). Once she took the Bowery stage herself, she didn’t say a whole lot, but she did dedicate “Goodbye” thusly: “This is a shout-out to my cat, who made the Village Voice today.”
Given her priorities, it’s hard to fault her for giving a lackadaisical performance. She did a grateful little speech about going from disgruntled New School student to Bowery Ballroom headliner, but if Cosentino is otherwise excited about her new place in the world, she didn’t show it. There was a lot of staring dead-eyed into the middle distance and laughing at the minor antics of guitarist Bobb Bruno, the hardest-rocking member of Best Coast mostly by virtue of how much hair he has.
Absent from the live show are backing vocals, which Cosentino sings herself on their debut full-length, Crazy for You. And when you’re attempting to recreate the magic of the Ronettes or the Shangri-Las, you absolutely need harmonies. Granted, doing the backing vocals live would require are either a loop pedal/pre-recorded track (not much fun) or fill-in backup singers (too much money, maybe). Also, both Bruno’s and Cosentino’s guitars are way louder than on record: That combined with the solo vocals makes the live songs sound less like the Beach Boys and more like the Ramones, less summer lovin’ and more angsty romantic confusion, which actually reflects the lyrics better.
Crazy For You briefly made an appearance on the Billboard album chart, and the Bowery crowd reflected that broadening appeal: Thick-rimmed glasses and high-waisted skirts, but also suits. Teenyboppers as well as frat guys. Cosentino once rejected pop princess-dom, but now, in the post-indie world of 2010, she’s somewhat unwittingly turned into one, tabloid relationship and all.
Inevitably, this level of success comes with backlash. She can’t play guitar (so?). The lyrics are mind-numbing (no argument), She talks about weed too much (not at this show). Regardless, very few naysayers have emerged for opener Male Bonding, whose debut, Nothing Hurts, will wind up ahead of Crazy for You on lots of year-end lists, as it should. The trio kicked ass at this show in pretty much the expected manner: Blinding songs, terse and unintelligible banter, scrunched-faced drumming. Bassist Kevin Hendrick does the Mark E. Smith barking, while guitarist John Arthur Webb handles the vocal melody, inasmuch as there is any. Both had matching pink socks, and drummer Robert Silas Christian had red ones, if foot fashion interests you.
Small Black kicked slightly less ass, although the songs they played from their upcoming (and newly leaked, they told us) record sound great. Gorgeous, even. Their bassist wore a “Crazy for Swayze” T-shirt, in case all those synthesizers weren’t enough to tell you which decade we’re mining here.
Critical Bias: So Crazy for You is just one song over and over again, right? I mean, it’s a fantastic song, but after the 13th time…
Overheard: We’re going with oversmelled here, and it was (inevitably) weed and (maybe as a result) Chinese food.
Random Notebook Dump: If/when Cosentino and Nathan Williams break up, what are the odds that we find out because Snacks the Cat stops following Wavves on Twitter?
Best Coast Setlist:
Sun Was High (So Was I)
Crazy For You
Make You Mine
This Is Real
Wish He Was You
That’s the Way Boys Are (Leslie Gore cover)
When The Sun Don’t Shine
I Want To
When I’m With You
Something In The Way
Each and Every Day