The Twitter Universe is a strange one: The ability for fans to connect with and receive semi-personal information directly from people like Dolly Parton and Just Bieber -- or in this case, Bethany Cosentino aka Best Coast -- is as simple as a text message. Seeing Cosentino and the rest of her band live at the Bluebird last night was like finally seeing your favorite cat-adoring, weed-smoking best friend from the internet for the first time in real life. But in this case, she was way cooler in person.
Openers Sonny & the Sunsets from San Francisco were one-dimensional, sleepwalking through a 45-minute set that came through with all of the right intention, just none of the energy. It was obvious from the first song, "Home In Exile," why the quartet was chosen for this tour -- they were jangled and breezy, California tambourine pop with an acid touch, a sensible and safe choice to pair with Best Coast. Songs like "Death Cream" and "Too Young To Burn" brought the band together with pretty harmonies and lots of smiles, bandleader Sonny Smith winking and making small talk between songs.
"Teenage Thugs" and "I Wanna Do It" filled the air with mild excitement and plenty of dum-dums, ooh-oohs, ah-ahs, la-las and na-nas, but Sonny and his band were still a relatively flat primer for what Best Coast was about to bring. Gracious and gentle, Sonny & The Sunsets closed their soft set and retired into the crowd for Cosentino's birthday performance.
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Around 9:30, the stage went dark except for the movement of a few shadowy figures lurking in the background, and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" came creeping through the sound system. Soon enough, the trio entered the stage, fumbling and giggling before the lights came up and a sleek Cosentino appeared smiling in a black pant-jumper, topped with a Burger King crown. Starting with "Bratty B," Cosentino's voice came through with color, brighter and cleaner than her fuzzed out recordings.
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Drummer Ali Koehler and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno built a solid, washed out backdrop for the set, but it was clear all attention was to be paid to Cosentino -- songs like "Crazy For You" and "The End" showcased her wandering coos, her head tipping left and right to the surfy beats. "Summer Mood" and her single, "Boyfriend" lightly channeled Nirvana, another great facet of Best Coast's sound that isn't so clear on her recordings. Awkward announcements from fans in the audience punctuated breaks between songs throughout the course of the night, a gentleman lobbing an inappropriate "Marry me!" statement at Cosentino, who replied with, "Okay," in obvious and warranted annoyance.
Cosentino did use the breaks to take birthday Jager bombs with her band, chased with sips off an almost finished bottle of Moet that sat next to a set list and her pedals. Delivering the droopy verses in "I Want To" and "Goodbye" from underneath razor-sharp bangs, Cosentino smiled wide, rocking back on chunky heels as she twisted her Fender Mustang about. A gentleman brought a birthday cake out to Cosentino, and she promptly removed the candles and tossed them into audience before the finale, "Each and Every Day" let her voice ring out in the single most beautiful moment of the show.
A birthday chant from the audience brought Best Coast back to the stage after only a few moments, the poppy drone of "So Gone" leading into a cover of Lesley Gore's "That's The Way Boys Are."
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I loved Pocahaunted, Cosentino's previous band, and I never got to see them before she began Best Coast. Random Detail: Early in the set, Cosentino took off her Burger King/birthday crown, and set it on my friend CJ Macleod's head, who wore it for the rest of the night. By The Way: It would have been nice to have a local opener on this show. There are a lot of bands that would have fit well with Best Coast, and brightened up the bill.