Words + photos by Farrah Skeiky
I have never seen such a high concentration of fringed clothing, seersucker dresses, tribal print or Native American art tees in one place. The crowd at this sold out 930 show is clearly here for Best Coast, and like me, they are completely unprepared for the kick in the face that Those Darlins are about to deliver.
My favorite moments at shows are the ones in which a relatively unknown opening band refuse to play like one, and instead unleash all the fury and sass that you’d expect from the headliner. Those Darlins did exactly that. Fronted by Nikki Darlin and Jessi Darlin sharing vocal and guitar duty, the band quickly transformed the room into their own garage, just with better acoustics. Jessi is on a string-breaking streak for the first three songs. These girls clearly listened to more Ramones than the other girls in their neighborhood growing up, and they’ve got the sex appeal of a classic bad girl group, but with more sequins and a much bigger audience to play for. The best part is that they don’t play like a “girl group,” they play like a rock group. As they sing in “Be Your Bro,” “I may have girly parts / but I got a boy’s heart.” They accomplished exactly what they should, and I know this because the look in the eyes of every female in the front said, “I want to be one of those girls.” Those Darlins got a forty-five minute set and made the most of every second of it. By the end of it, the intermission felt like torture. We just wanted more. Give these girls a show at the Cat so they can sell out there and tear it up!
Out comes Bobb Bruno, followed by the Bratty B herself, Bethany Cosentino. At this point, I glance down at the setlist and realize that they might just be playing every song they have. After all, they really don’t have that many. And after the energy and sass Those Darlins strew across the stage, I was really hoping for a similar attitude from Best Coast. And from the first note, things are looking optimistic.
The set begins with a buzzing, high energy trio of songs from their first album, Crazy for You. Kicking things off with “The End,” the absolutely darling Bethany on the stage before us seems to be a completely different person than the Bethany that has written so many songs about pining over her best friend. She’s confident and completely at home in front of the sold out crowd, and if not, she’s putting on a great front. And Bobb? Bobb is, in one word, adorkable. Especially when equally adorkable girls are confessing their love for him. But having completely underestimated the amount of high schoolers in the audience, nothing could prepare me for the shrieking chorus of “I wish my cat could talk!” behind me. It is extremely likely that at least half of these girls have dubbed “Goodbye” as their breakup song. They’ve also probably named their cat Snacks.
It’s going to be interesting to see what their next album brings, because Best Coast are exclusively about teenage love. With the amount of songs they’ve written about coveting someone else’s man, they are easily the indie surf-pop version of Taylor Swift. Of course these aren’t the first songs of their kind. Most of my favorite “love songs” are the ones written by jealous, wistful, exceedingly sassy girls. But at one point, all of the songs from The Only Place start to blend together and I wonder what could possibly redeem the new material from feeling so dull. Instead of feeling like the confessions of ex-lovers in their first post-breakup confrontation, the songs feel more like the things that go unsaid and stay hidden inside journals.
The Only Place is the album that every high school girl wants to use as her makeout soundtrack. There are a lot of teenage couples that seem to be superglued together for the durations of those songs. Only “Our Deal” breaks up the block of new songs, and it gets the disco ball and mood lighting treatment, as it should. And as far as the middle of the set is concerned, this is Bethany’s highest point, because the heartbreak in her voice is honest. She knows all too well the feeling of being denied understanding someone else’s feelings. If you know this feeling, you’ve probably (unfortunately) also considered getting a cat and naming her Snacks, and talking about her in your songs.
It’s really the start and the end of the set that stand out, because that’s where the older songs are concentrated. Even if it was only for “Boyfriend,” everyone was anticipating a vibrant encore. As great as their performance was, I can’t help but wonder if Bethany and Bobb realized that playing all their new songs back to back was a bad idea. Hopefully lessons have been learned and they break up their floating, monotone set with older material that’s faster and a bit more solid. The opening chords of “I Want To” signaled the crowd to snap back into the same frenzied state as the beginning of the set, and they warmly embraced being able to sing (or yell) the lyrics back at Bethany. “Boyfriend” is in fact vibrant, and the newfound energy makes up for whiny lyrics. And we were even treated to “Bratty B.” It’s unfortunate that the energy has returned to the room too late.
In all honesty, Best Coast are somewhere between yearning and whining, but we can’t help but love Bobb and Bethany anyways.