all words: Courtney Pitman, all photos: Brandon Weight
Yo, Best Coast, you were really great and I’mma finish talking about you, but on Tuesday night at 9:30 Club, Guards became the band I’ve seen the most OF ALL TIME. Weird but true, Guards’s opening set for the Cali surf rockers marked the fourth time—in two years, no less—I’ve seen the indie group rock DC, each time as a supporting act.
I figure this achievement warrants some special love, so here it goes:
Our journey began at Rock and Roll Hotel in June of 2011, when I excitedly mistook the long dark-haired Guards frontman, Richie Follin, for Brian Oblivion, the long dark-haired Cults member, whose long dark-haired sister Madeline Follin makes up the other half of Cults. Silly me. (Seriously folks, check out the pics from that show and you’ll understand my confusion.)
You handily exceeded my nonexistent expectations that evening with a mix of driving power-pop / rock gems and an awkwardly unpolished presence, at least enough that FREE was a worthwhile price to download the Guards EP when I got home. The show proved that the billing wasn’t just an obligatory Baldwinian ride on the buzzed-about coattails of a sibling’s rising star, also reinforced by the quality of your EP.
We didn’t meet again until December 2012, this time at Black Cat with White Rabbits, where you arguably outshone the headlining act, and then once more on the big stage at 9:30 Club with Ra Ra Riot in January. While your sound and songs continued to become more cohesive, the distracted crowds resulted in a lingering awkwardness—that is, until this most recent 9:30 Club visit. This time, the largely teenage Best Coast fans arrived early and obliged the urge to dance during songs like “Nightmare” and a cover of MIA’s “Born Free” (!!). With the crowd seriously engaged, the jam sessions rocked harder and Richie’s weirdly spiritual guitar rituals seemed less, well, weird.
The trend has been a decisively positive one in the past two years for both your live and recorded offerings, which is nice. Also, since you’re now the band I’ve seen the most times live all while being a supporting act, your booking agent probably deserves some sort of medal for successful market saturation.
Much love, Courtney
On to the next one: BEST COAST WAS BACK AT 9:30 CLUB.
Which was also nice. Bethany, Bob and co. brought SoCal to DC on Tuesday in fairly straightforward fashion, their surf rock jams flourishing and receding as quickly as waves on a beach. In further CA evidence, the youngest crowd I’ve ever seen at 9:30 (and I was at the fun. show) was littered with flower headbands and other hair adornments—as if everyone saw that Jimmy Kimmel video at Coachella but missed that it was making fun of the festival-goers. Ultimately, however, the crowd proved to be rather wonderful, and their sober, unbridled enthusiasm refreshing right from the start.
With the help of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” Best Coast orchestrated one of the better entrances I’ve seen, allowing the song and the crowd to reach their respective crescendos before taking the stage as everyone belted “I-LOVE-YOU-BAAABY!” (The minority of the showgoers who weren’t teenagers also took a brief, introspective moment with me right then to remember Heath Ledger.) From there, they jumped right into their set, sprinting through 2.1 fuzzy lo-fi songs off of 2010’s Crazy For You before Bethany Cosentino interrupted “The End” to speak her first words to the DC crowd.
Those words were: “Wait. Fuck. Sorry, I wasn’t even thinking about anything there… But hey! We’re Best Coast.”
The moment seemed to shake the band out of a robotic routine and set the tone for the rest of the evening, as they noticeably loosened up throughout the set. With the combination of a lackluster start and my preference for BC’s cleaner tunes, they had me a little concerned as they dove through the first four songs in just ten minutes, all of them with the signature scuzzed out vocals and sprawling garage guitars from Crazy For You.
Finally, they ditched the hazy noise on “Last Year,” with Bethany’s vocals on display for the first time: What a year this day has been / What a day this year has been. From here they never looked back, as they followed with three more tunes off 2012’s The Only Place, and settled into a comfortable rhythm for the rest of the evening. Although it’s easy to distinguish Best Coast’s two albums, their real talent lies in the simplistic ease in which they thread together basic human conditions. They found this in their set on Tuesday night, effectively interweaving poppy and dreary love songs, weed-inspired garage rock, and humble, entertaining banter about eating a huge meatball sandwich right before getting on stage. Nothing cuts too deep; but it’s all relatable, and it’s all enjoyable.
In a similar manner, highlights of the evening tended to be my favorite (maybe those are just the most relatable?) Best Coast songs, but by the time they hit their stride two-thirds of the way through, all of the songs were coming together into some sort of upbeat streamlined consciousness. A new song, “Who Have I Become,” which is very much on the sunny pop end of the spectrum was downright glorious. On the other end, “When I’m With You” and “Each and Every Day” closed their set by melting fuzzy rock into danceable riffs and then into sprawling jam sessions.
As Bethany warned us of the real carb-baby consequences of singing and sandwiching for the third time in one evening, all we could do is wish that maybe one day we could eat a meatball sandwich with her. It’s all relatable, and it’s all enjoyable.
- The last two times I’ve seen Guards I’ve been obsessed with an image of a Follin family Thanksgiving with the full Cults and Guards gangs and all their tresses in tow. In my head it’s set like a Wes Anderson family meal and they’re all wearing matching track suits.
- This Best Coast sweatshirt is amazing.
- NPR recorded Best Coast’s last foray at 9:30 Club last July, which is worth a listen or four, despite the lamentable removal from the recording of their game-changing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Storms.”
- Drew Barrymore directed a West Side Story-esque video for “Our Deal” a couple years ago featuring Chloe Moretz, Donald Glover, Alia Shawkat, and a few other familiar-looking beautiful people. It’s kind of awesome, but even if it wasn’t, this still of Drew and Bethany alone would have made the project worthwhile.