Best Coast pens songs about the West Coast, because as singer/songwriter, guitarist, and all-around badass Bethany Cosentino will tell you, try living on any other coast and you’ll find yourself moving back wondering, “Why would you live anywhere else?” Their music might’ve started as an ode to the Golden State “aesthetic” (every jangled guitar riff and noisy harmony are proof enough), but unlike most indie/surf-rock groups of the last decade, Best Coast has added to the euphemism. Last Thursday night at the Fonda Theatre, the duo’s voracious intimacy shone through as they invited us to join them beyond the idyllic sunsets, white sand beaches, palm-dotted boulevards, and golden skylines–into a less-than utopian idea of their, and our, home state.
Opening with a string of unforgettable tunes from their humble beginnings, Cosentino tore through the moody contradictions of “Crazy For You,” before diving into the melancholy doldrums of their last album California Nights. Every minute afterwards was a wild acceleration into the band’s four album discography as they weaved in-and-out of their jangle-pop roots and newfound 90’s alternative introspectiveness. But while the fragmented nostalgia of hits like “Boyfriend,” with its drearily hopeful harmonizations, and “The Only Place,” were enough to send goosebumps across my body–it was the gutsy honesty with which they performed the tunes of California Nights that had us swooning for Cosentino and company all over again.
The night’s climax came early as her ethereal wails cut through the overcast doldrums and glowing guitars of “California Nights.” It’s the kind of song you blast as you drive at midnight down Sunset Boulevard and up the Pacific Coast Highway, emptying your lungs alongside the uplifting surge of Cosentino’s rushing vocals. “I never wanna get so high/That I can’t come back down to real life/And look you in the eyes and say/Baby, you’re mine,” she howls just before the song descends into a gorgeous bruising of riffs.
The emotively exhausting moment left fans emotionally drained–Best Coast could’ve walked off the stage right then, but the night was far from over. Forcing out the strained praises and laments of a lost lover between the furiously addictive hammer-ons of “Heaven Sent,” Cosentino and Bruno flaunted their rock chops as fans mildly moshed beneath them. A few minutes later they were beating back grief with doses of cautious hope and fistfuls of antidepressants on songs like “Feeling OK” and “Fine Without You,” as pummeling guitar rips and Cosentino’s desperate croons visibly struck numerous chords within the crowded venue.
Returning momentarily to the glint of beach-tinted guitars on their finale, “When Will I Change,” the 28-year-old rocker asked that universally ignored question; focusing in on her growth as a human being and her ability to shoulder what life has piled on her back, as the crowd sang back to her: “The way that the world/Crushes down on my shoulders/I’m a big girl now/But I don’t feel much older.”
San Diego-born Wavves would finish off the night with their head-spinning beach-punk rock showmanship. Helmed and held together by the brashly charismatic adhesive of frontman Nathan Williams, the band’s own transformation from sulky lo-fi to emphatically melodic rock tunes kept the fire burning under the feet of the Fonda’s crowd long after co-headliners Best Coast had left the stage. From the fuzzy, wall-of-sound guitars of their early pieces to the dizzying, indie-rock of songs like “V,” Williams and his cohorts played like they were 15-years-old again fighting to truly keep summer alive forever.
But it’s been nearly five years since that first Summer Is Forever was rolled out (my own 15-year-old self fondly remembers) and in the interim since Cosentino and her co-headlining partner Wavves have matured indefinitely, returning to soundtrack the harsh, gritty, and heartbreaking stories that hang (like the brooding gloom of a thick marine layer) above the heads of herself and her fans. Throughout the night we battled with them the wounds of severed relationships, adulthood, petty jealousy, and existential crisis, edging closer towards an emotional break-down and catharsis that we never really arrived at. Why not? Because, as Cosentino implores us to do, she chooses to live with the bittersweet scar tissue of the heartache; rather than cheapen or tarnish the memories with denial, she allows it to paint her walls and shouts it from the rooftops. As the rest of Hollywood Blvd could probably attest that night, shout we did.
Noisy-pop outfit Cherry Glazer opened the night with their peculiarly catchy songs like “Had Ten Dollaz” and “Grilled Cheese.” Lead by female rocker Clementine Creevy, the unpolished epitome of not taking oneself too seriously, the quartet garnered a following in their short but clamorous set.
Words & Photography: Steven Ward