WASHINGTON, July 30, 2012 – The first things likely to be mentioned when Best Coast comes up in any kind of conversation is the lo-fi charm of their first album Crazy For You and the fuzzy feedback on their guitars.
Regardless of any positive or negatives of their actual song writing and craft, it always comes back to those things was on display during their show at the 9:30 Club Saturday night; the fuzz of their guitar work for better or for worse dominated their sound the entire evening.
Best Coast begun in 2009 by Bethany Cosentino and Bob Bruno as a Los Angeles based band with surf rock pretentions. They were initially praised for debut album being charmingly lo-fi, which most pop albums have a tendency to do even if it’s not the band’s normal intention, because it goes against the usual grain. Granted this goes hand in hand with decent song. Their second album The Only Place, released early this year, garnered a bit more of a mixed reaction from critics, who were undecided as a whole whether the band’s move away from lo-fi fuzz was a good thing or not.
Although it was a move forward for the band, it also impacted their show at the 9:30 Club.
The most ideal setting for a band like Best Coast, if someone is looking for the band to replicate their recorded sound, is for a smaller, intimate venue. There’s a soft, crooning side to Bethany Cosentino’s voice and her guitar-playing takea up an almost alt-country vibe. The problem is, that sound doesn’t necessarily translate well to relatively large club venue like the 9:30 Club.
So, it was likely Cosentino and Bruno were going to change up their sound slightly to make the live shows work in front of the sold out crowd.
What ended up happening was Cosentino, Bruno, and their back-up band embracing one aspect of the lo-fi “charm” effect of their first album while forsaking the fuzzy guitar feedback. It wouldn’t be impossible for them to pull off a lo-fi vibe at the 9:30 Club, but it would sound off and possibly end up turning off the audience. Instead they elect for a fuller and bigger sound.
What doesn’t get lost in the shuffle is their trademark fuzz out guitar sound. This aspect takes on a life of its own though without the more restrained elements of Best Coast’s sound. If someone unfamiliar with them before dropping in on this concert, their
natural assumption would be the band plays a laid back version of Bleach era Nirvana or Mudhoney. This brings out some of the looser and more garage rock instincts they have and really gives the show a different feel than one would normally expect.
In a way it gives the band a more sped up and energizing feel. It’s an interesting contrast to Bethany Cosentino’s vocals, which have this wavering pixie crooning vibe to them and is the unchanging center of the band.
It doesn’t drastically change any of the songs, mainly because the enjoyable simplicity of pop song writing is still at each song’s core, but it adds another perspective to how the songs work.
The difference between their live performance and their recorded material is a unique case of how a band shifts their dynamic to make themselves more appealing in a different environment. As the audience at the 9:30 Club found out Saturday night, that shift doesn’t make Best Coast any less engaging.
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