The first “Summer Is Forever” tour, featuring Best Coast and Wavves, was in 2011. I saw them in Boulder on Valentine's Day. At the time, Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast) and Nathan Williams (Wavves) were the "It" couple of the Urban Outfitters generation, writing songs about their relationship, Instagramming photos of their cat, Snacks (who appears on both bands' album covers), and generally not giving a fuck. The fact that the couple played together on Valentine’s Day was the only real memorable moment of that show. Hipster Runoff later accused Cosentino (who at the time was trying to imitate the always unamused Lana Del Rey) of lip-synching. Williams and company seemed antagonistic. I was certain the wave of SoCal-led surfer punk was about to crash and no one would remember these two bands in five years time.
But here we are, almost exactly five years later, and Best Coast and Wavves are at the top of their game. On Saturday night, the Bluebird Theater was sold out for the pair, and the crowd was appropriately rowdy. Why were a bunch of nineteen-year-olds moshing to “Crazy for You” and “Way Too Much”? Because the two bands are no longer poster children for the stoner beach lifestyle; they mean much more now.
Best Coast has evolved far beyond her three-chord, half-baked odes to California to songs like “California Nights” (which, fine, is an ode to California, we guess), that opens with the line “I stay high all the time to get by.” It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s deep and explores emotions like doubt, anxiety and longing. While I’m still convinced that every Best Coast song consists of the same drumbeats, Saturday's set list, which was a mix of new and old, showed that Cosentino is no longer just a stoner girl with a guitar, but a woman with some serious shit to say. She perfectly blends retro-pop with West Coast punk, and while she won’t make you swoon with a metaphor, she gets to the goddamned point. I relate more to “The world is lazy/ But you and me/We’re just crazy” a hell of a lot more than to many pretentious similes that find their way into other songs.
Cosentino wore an oversized Sublime shirt and had messy hair. She ripped on her guitar, made awkward small talk about missing Snacks the cat, and managed to get the entire crowd singing and dancing along. Cosentino is the reason that there were plenty of young girls in the audience. She proves that femininity means you can both write a perfect pop song about wanting a boyfriend and also attack the vitriolic misogyny that exists in the music industry. She slayed.
Wavves has also grown up since 2011. No longer is Williams a whiny drunken brat singing about getting high on the beach (though the crowd more or less erupted at the the opening chords of “King of the Beach”). There’s darkness and maturity in his new music. There’s more influence — “Way Too Much” is very late-'90s pop punk — and more understanding. Somewhere between recording songs for Grand Theft Auto V and doing a split EP with Cloud Nothings, Wavves grew into a real punk with real chops. Williams's music has become so lasting and infiltrating that there was literally a man at the side of the stage whose job it was to make sure stage-divers didn’t linger. Every time a kid jumped on stage and danced around, a man in a button-down shirt appeared from the side and gave the young punk a shove back into the crowd. How fucking punk is that? (No, really. How punk is it?)
I don’t know what the future holds for Best Coast and Wavves. But I do know that both bands have proven that if you take some style, even if it seems like a fad, and you manage to tear it apart and build it back up into actual art, you can turn into a band that’s gone from a Hipster Runoff joke to one people are talking about five years later. Who knows, maybe summer is forever.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.