Opening the show with "Ghost Blonde," No Joy provided the perfect blend of noisy garage rock and dream pop. The title track to the group's debut full-length is one of its best songs and a strong introduction to the rest of the set. During "Heedless," everyone in the band seemed to lean into his or her respective instruments and issued forth a sweeping flood of gritty, swirling sound. "No Summer," with its bubbling whorls of distorted melody sounded like what Camper Van Beethoven might have done had it started ten years later, inspired by Isn't Anything.
"Indigo Child" was even darker than it is on the album, and Laura Lloyd's bends gave the song, as it did in others, a warp, a weft outside the logic of the song's chord progression. Finishing its performance with a dark, brooding cover of "He Cried" by Shangri-Las, No Joy drew the song down into twin squalls of controlled feedback between Lloyd's and Jasmine White-Glutz's guitars. With its edgy atmospheres and layered dynamics driven by propulsive rhythms in both bass and drums, No Joy proved to be the most impressive band of the night.
Walking on to stage to the strains of "Raining Blood" by Slayer, the members of Wavves looked like they were down with the clown, as each member of the trio was wearing corpse paint done a little more silly than the average Scandinavian black metal band. When Nathan Williams and Stephen Pope spoke to the crowd they reinforced that image by speaking like one of the guys from Venom -- guttural, ominous and entirely ridiculous.
As a live band, these guys put on an exuberant performance of songs from across its recorded output, including "Here's To the Sun," "Linus Spacehead," "So Bored" and "Super Soaker" -- which Nathan dedicated to "Miss Angst" who was in the front wearing a Social Distortion t-shirt.
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While the material tended to be of a similar tempo and dynamic range, Wavves at least played like each member believed in the music, and most of the crowd seemed to know many of the lyrics, which were more than a bit adolescent. But that's kind of the point of this music -- to be youthfully exuberant and not think about it all too much. And yet, the clear command of the performance Wavves had aside, it often seemed like the garage rock equivalent of late pop punk, which is not without its merits but comes with a built in glass ceiling for artistic development. But it worked for The Ramones, so maybe it'll work for these guys, too. Most of the crowd loved this band, as evidenced from the enthusiastic cheers -- always a better barometer of the quality of a show than the opinion of a lowly music critic.
Best Coast made use of introduction music, as well, but instead of turning ironically to Slayer on Valentine's Day, it utilized "California Love" by Tupac. With little preamble, the band started things off with "Crazy For You," and it seemed as though Bethany Cosentino has actually improved even more as a singer since her appearance in Denver in early November. Her strongly melodic voice was especially striking for this show. At eighteen songs, it's hard to imagine the band having left out any of its material, but it did perform an excellent cover of "Fist City" by Loretta Lynn and did one better on "So Bored" by Wavves.
New songs "Sunny Adventure" and "When You Wake Up" were in the familiar mold of the sound Best Coast has forged for itself between '60s girl group vibes, garage rock and whatever it is Cosentino and Bob Bruno learned being a part of experimental rock bands. It was just as appealing as any of their older material. Despite the fact that someone in the audience had the lack of grace to shout for the band to play their old songs. Typical.
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Before "Goodbye," one of Cosentino's strings broke, and while she switched guitars and tuned back up to where she needed to be, she asked Bob Bruno to tell stories and jokes, and he proceeded to do so. Nothing too revelatory except for maybe how the band listened to "Freak on a Leash" by Korn and "Keep On Lovin' You" by REO Speedwagon. Hardly crimes. The band handled any and all mishaps with such an impressive smoothness, grace and good humor that other musicians could learn a few things from Best Coast in that regard.
The outfit finished off the set with "When I'm With You," with almost everyone present singing along, followed by a loose, but somehow better than ever, version of "Each and Every Day." At the very end, Cosentino tried to stand on the stage monitors, but that didn't work out, so she stood on Ali Koehler's bass drum and ultimately fell off when she tried to jump off. But, true to form, Cosentino laughed it off and said, "Happy Valentine's Day!" before the band left the stage, and someone from the Wavves' crew tried to do a stage dive that didn't go as planned but didn't end in disaster either.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: None to speak of. Random Detail: Apparently it was necessary to have a loud, dysfunctional therapy session in the middle of the show offstage. By the Way: Many people in attendance need to go to a real hardcore show and get schooled on not only how to do it right but on etiquette as well.