w/ Reading Rainbow and Creepoid
Sat, April 3, 2010
951 Frankford Ave.
Technology is a funny thing.
With the internet killing off the notion and profitability of album sales in the music industry, it is no wonder that bands are touring more despite the cost effectiveness of producing live shows. Getting your name out there is the easy part, getting people to pay for your music is now somewhat of an anomaly with most transactions taking place through illegal downloading.
Gone are the days of the record store and physical artifacts that hark a time where one would sit alone in their room and read the linear notes of an album and listen to every track from beginning to end. Now we pick and choose, maybe downloading one song or another and sometimes adding them to an online playlist that is accessible at any time, for free.
I heard about Best Coast through a DJ on blip.fm and my interest was immediately piqued. The sloppy, grungy, girly, waspy sound was all indicative of my tastes in music and I immediately “gave props” to the DJ who posted the song. After looking for more of their music I was enchanted by the new yet nostalgic sound, and I wanted more. After I listened to the second song, a little note popped up on the screen “Best Coast will be playing live at The Barbary. Buy Tickets Now…”. Yes please.
I am by far not a music connoisseur. I am picky about what I listen to although being a choreographer I will listen to almost anything. I always gravitate towards chick rock primarily due to the nature in which I judge music: lyrics, drummer, mood, harmony, respectively. Many times when I hear about a new band I will listen to one or two of their songs. Especially in Philly, since we have such a vibrant local music scene and culture, it is easy to go and see a cheap show in a great venue, so I reserve my judgment until I observe the band live. I got that giddy feeling when I first heard Best Coast. The first song I heard was “Up All Night”. The steady droning nature of the song is captivating, dark and bittersweet. “I wanna see you I wanna see you I wanna see you forever and ever and forever and ever forever…”. I was so there.
I was actually looking forward to catching an early show at The Barbary even though it was in Northern Liberties. The problem I have with traveling up there is that the Philadelphia public transit system is ass and if I want to get hammered, taking the subway is null after midnight. Sure, taking a cab has gotten easier with the influx of the Yuppie/Hipster population, but at times, even that is a chore. If only I believed in drunk driving.
I didn’t get too turned around in finding The Barbary, although it is off the beaten path as far as the rest of the No Libs establishments are concerned. When I arrived, the pungent breeze was blowing wafts of cigarette smoke towards me as Hipsters large and small were smoking and chatting in front of the sticker and flier scabbed entrance. I walked in and it felt like Philly- gritty, dingy, cool. The bar to the right looked abandoned and dark. The wide open space that curtained the room and was highlighted by a small stage that spoke of a venue perfect for dancing and partying. There was a disco ball too. The bearded doorman (who doesn’t have a beard anymore?) looked at my twenty dollar bill perplexed and distressed, letting me know that he didn’t have change and that the show was sold out. I gave him ten one dollar bills and walked over to the side, slipping past a wide variety of a relatively young crowd with a few old heads scattered hear and there, all toting beards of their own. No offense, but I couldn’t help but to notice how remarkably not fortunate looking everyone was and I was disappointed because live shows are the perfect events for optimal cruising. Plus, standing at 5’11”, I was the giant in the room, able to see over everyone’s head. I felt like I was in some warped, unreal place in time that rendered me better than everybody else. I digress. At least no one was wearing sweat pants.
Of the most import to mention here (regarding the space) was that there was a photo booth. I didn’t take advantage of it although as aforementioned, I was kind of feeling like a sexy, narcissistic rock star amongst the school of shabby chic youngins that were parading around the room. This post is going in another direction, let’s get back to the task at hand!
So as serendipitous as it was to stumble upon Best Coast, I was pleasantly surprised by one of the opening bands, a local XX/XY duo called Reading Rainbow. I checked out their page beforehand but didn’t listen to any of their tunes, wanting to keep my eardrum hymen intact to get the full on experience (shouldn’t every band be better live than in the studio?). I made it just in time to catch them, they had a cute look to them, two brunettes, one tall and lanky guy with glasses and a flannel inspired plaid shirt (no beard though) and a cute little librarian looking chick (also, no beard), touting a plaid shirt of the more feminine variety. They stood center stage, him playing the guitar and her playing a simple drum kit of a snare and floor tom. Naturally their style was reminiscent of the White Stripes aesthetic, but their sound was something different altogether.
One of my biggest pet peeves when I see a live show is not being able to hear the lyrics (remember, lyrics, drummer, mood, harmony, respectively?). Luckily, the mood and harmony of the band was killer. Rob (the guitarist) wailed away on some distorted power chords while Sara pounded away at some hardcore yet simple drum processions, creating a great little punky, spirited, head bopping sound. Much of their songs were made up of humming and la la la-ing, so it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t understand a word they said (seriously, I couldn’t even make out the word “I” or “me”). They were a sexy band, so that helped, and their songs were relatively short. Another part of the serendipitous nature is how they came about, having lost their drummer a few weeks before a show and reinventing themselves, Sara teaching herself how to play the drums. Remind you of something? There is a juxtaposition (I hate that word) of hard and soft, complex and simple, no doubt a sincere reflection of the co-ed personality of the band. Highly recommend.
And then there was Best Coast.
It took them a ridiculously short amount of time to set up, being a new band they don’t come with all the bells and whistles and accoutrements that are indicative of a more seasoned band. The three piecers were ret-ta-go in a matter of moments and soon we were inundated with their lo-fi, West Coast sound. Led by Bethany Cosentino, a blond, cat loving, not-so-ordinary beach babe from L.A., the band has a two guitar attack with some pretty punk rock percussion that rounds out what could easily fall into pop music if not handled correctly. I heard every single one of the lyrics even after Bethany asked the dude working the board to turn up her guitar. Mostly all of the songs were about love and boys and how crazy the two can make one feel, so it was uber appreciated to hear something that made sense to me. What was nice though was that while the lyrics touched upon these timeless subjects, they seemed natural, as if she were having a conversation about them, refusing to subjugate the music into this wildly poetic and dreamy subspace that could read as pretentious and overbearing. She says, “I don’t think lyrics need to be deep– just write whatever comes out of you. You don’t need to find intense meaning in everything.” Lyrics like “I wish my cat could talk” and “I never want to get off this couch” speak to me in a different way, primarily in that I don’t have to think too hard about where she’s going with the words, they are in your face and poignant. They are satirical and hilarious. They are sad but true. The song “Boyfriend” was definitely a highlight for me and that was the song they started the show with.
I was impressed due to my inability to pigeonhole the work of the band into a genre or an inspired-by. While there are hints of surf rock, The Beatles, some riot grrl, they have their own way in their simplicity and rawness, something that you always hope a new band will hold on to after they’ve been around the block a few times. Again, their songs were relatively short and it was a blessing because the affect was much sharper and clearer and a lot more entertaining than a song that goes on and on and on. Just get to the point.
After the show I went up and said hello to Bethany and told her it was a great set. I told her the story of how I came across her band on the internet and that she might like to know that since promotion is a vital part of keeping a band going. She really appreciated my feedback and telling her about how I stumbled upon Best Coast. I know this band is going to develop a stronger following and I see some higher priced tickets in their future. $10 was a bargain if I ever saw one. It’s so nice to see a band destined for greatness in their developmental stages.
As a side note, it was really cool to see that they were selling their music on 7″ vinyl, a shout out to the days of falling in love with one or two songs and the necessity to go out and buy them immediately.