Concert Reviews

Last Night: Best Coast, Wavves and No Joy at the Granada Theater

Best Coast, Wavves, No Joy
Granada Theater
January 24, 2011

Better Than: Being separated from your best friend/cat.

Over the past year, the relationship between Nathan Williams and Bethany Cosentino, lead singers of Wavves and Best Coast, respectively, has been the go-to story in the world of indie rock romance. Maybe it's not too much of a coincidence that the two hail from Southern California, land of Hollywood and fairy tales. And while each occupies a different section of the playful indie rock movement that dominates the sound of many up-and-comers -- he proffers a distinctively punk approach while she sticks to more saccharine and sunny conventions -- it's pop music that ties their sound together.

Distinctively SoCal, the two brought their bands together for the "Summer is Forever" tour, a winter jaunt that'll see them cross the US and Canada. Monday night's Granada Theater show was stop No. 3 on the tour -- one that could just as easily have been called the "1993 Is Forever" tour, as the night had a distinctively grunge feeling to it.

And I mean that in no derogatory way whatsoever.

No Joy kicked off the night. The Toronto band, whose buzz is largely thanks to love gotten from Cosentino via her Twitter account, bathed the early audience in a wall of distortion. But the sludgy guitar of Jasmine White-Glutz and Laura Lloyd evoked melody, much in the same way that bands like Sonic Youth and Nirvana harnessed their own noise into neat packets whose sensibilities are definitely categorized as pop.

Despite a shock of hair occluding the faces of the members, No Joy had a hard and seething appeal and connected well with an audience hungry for catchy musicianship. The vocals were spaced-out, the drone held the room afloat and the band closed their set with a noise session of swirling feedback that saw each member twisting knobs and kneeling before their amps in ceremonial homage. The 1990s undertones were already dripping from the rafters before Wavves even hit the stage.

Nathan Williams cuts a hard edge with his music, but with Wavves' most recent release, King of the Beach, he shed many of his lo-fi sensibilities for a proper studio affair. And with some of the craggy edges cleaned up, Williams' deep-rooted pop songwriting tendencies have bubbled up to the surface. Straightforward and honest, the amazingly catchy lyrics will hook you before you even notice that you're listening to pop music dressed in gritty packaging.

But the new, more polished sound has not so much translated to the live show. While they played many of the songs from King of the Beach, Williams and his band stayed with the sound that long-time fans are familiar with and kept it grungy. With a lineup that included former Jay Reatard bassist Stephen Pope and Jacob Cooper on drums, Wavves muscled through a set that started high energy and stayed high energy throughout. Pope was fantastic on backup vocals and kept the stage presence lively with his shock of blond afro mohawk bouncing wildy throughout the set. Williams, meanwhile, seemed to consciously pay homage to his grunge forebears with his red flannel shirt, jeans and work boots.

And the band seemed resolute to power through the set, packing 17 tracks into a 50-minute set with very little crowd banter to speak of. Williams cycled through a number of his influences, though, with the clothing of Cobain, the catchiness of Weezer, the guitar chops of Martsch, the in-your-face of Black Flag and the straight-up energy of NOFX.

Bethany Cosentino brought the energy down a bit with her retro-pop outfit, but before long it was clear where Best Coast and Wavves share a lot in common. The feminine side of the SoCal indie pop monarchy had her turn to woo the crowd and she did just that. Best Coast's catchy lyrics, simple approach to life (boys, weed and her cat seem to dominate proceedings), and infectious chords make this band a hard-to-deny force. They definitely bring out the summer, even on a January Monday night. And to see the romance between Cosentino and her frontman honey is fantastic to behold.

Best Coast's music, quite simply, takes us back to simpler times. It's about going to the coast to enjoy the beauty of the sea -- and then getting fucked up in the presence of its vastness. It's as much about the release of surrendering and being swept away as it is about raging against the machine. While the overall energy of the room became more mellow when Best Coast took over, the crowd was no less engaged, taken in by the sweetness of the band's music.

The high-water marks came with crowd sing-alongs of tracks from Best Coast's full-length Crazy for You -- "Bratty B," "I Want To" and "Boyfriend" in particular. Cosentino even wowed with a thrilling cover of Loretta Lynn's "Fist City" that showed that her vocal range is an asset that we've only glimpsed up till now.

And, fittingly, things ended on an upbeat note with Best Coast closing out the night performing "Happy," rousing the crowd with one of their faster songs before ending the night.

Overall, the Southern Cali vibe was strong and the "Summer is Forever" tour will likely be just what the doctor ordered for many a case of winter blues.

Critics Notebook
Personal Bias:
As someone whose musical sensibilities were pretty much cemented in the early 1990s, this night was a blast. Those who love that era of music should probably explore this little subset of music more thoroughly.

Random Note: When Best Coast performed "Honey," Cosentino squealed when announcing that the song was about her boyfriend. "I see him," she shouted with glee. Then she sang with a grin on her face that made it obvious that this boy makes her quite happy. This did not make me cringe or want to puke, surprisingly.

By the Way: Don't know if the co-headliners plan on keeping the same performing order, but it may have been better served to close with Wavves. Their superb energy was the apex of the night.

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Nic Hernandez