Best Coast Brings West Coast Sound To Houston
Flash back seven months ago to South by Southwest.
I walked three miles in a hungover haze to see Best Coast. For the past two days I’d consumed only beer and a single breakfast taco. "Bed" was corner of a living room where I shared a Snuggie and a dirty throw pillow. I wasn't going to be easily impressed. Bethany Cosentino took the tiny stage with Bobb Bruno on drums. She looked stoned, fitting considering her first song was “Sun Was High.”
At once girly, dreamy and nostalgic for the late 1960s, Best Coast initially brought to mind The Virgin Suicides’ Lisbon sisters. Jeffrey Eugenides wrote of the youngest sister, “What we have here is a real dreamer, someone completely out of touch with reality.”
She sang as if remembering a happier time, which was probably the case as she wrote many of the songs when she was in New York City missing the California coast — the best coast.
One song, the simplistic “I Want To,” haunted me. It started slow, “I want you so much/ And I want you so much” trailing into a slow, longing, “Oooooh.”
Standing on blistered feet, lightheaded from the beer, I swore she was inside my head. She was inside every girl’s head.
Then the time signature sped up, exploding into the refrain, “I want to/ Go back to/ The first night/ The first place.”
Although far from poetry, it’s the simple, sing-along lyrics that hook audiences.
Who doesn’t want to go back to the first time? If not to fix a mistake you made, then to hold a moment closer.
The rest of Crazy for You (2010) embraces similar themes. In “When the Sun Don’t Shine” Bethany repeats, “I just wanna tell you/ That I’ve always missed you.” “Our Deal” and “Goodbye” both recount anxiety over a boy leaving. With Best Coast someone's always leaving and someone's always wishing.
The songs aren’t love songs for people, but to feelings, that teenage infatuation that compels you to throw yourself facedown onto sofas, praying for your phone to ring.
Now flash forward to Saturday night at Fitzgerald’s. A printed sign announced that the show would be pushed back nearly two hours. (The Pegstar and Fitzgerald’s twitters didn’t reflect this, nor did their websites or Facebook events. Apparently rejecting social media is the new hip trend— get on it.)
My friends gave up after an hour of waiting, walking to their cars with shoulders slumped. Even though I was expected at a birthday party at 11 pm. I stuck it out alone, hunched over a picnic table on the back patio.
I coughed in a haze of second-hand smoke and made friends with the Fitzgerald’s cat. The cat looks like he has a fade job: a creamy-blonde back with smoky legs, face, and tail. I wondered, hey, what would I look like with a fade?
I entertained the idea for some time before deciding that when my roots grew in the blonde-brown fade would become brown-blonde-brown and look hella fug.
Next I considered bars with names of authors. I scribbled them in my professional-looking Anne Geddes notepad: F. Scott Fitzgerald for Fitzgerald’s, Rudyard Kipling for Rudyard’s, feminist anarchist writer Lola Ridge for Lola’s, Harper Lee for The Harp… or was that too much a stretch? I started thinking about Kay’s Lounge when the cold hit me hard and I stumbled back inside.
I leaned against a pole on the upstairs patio and sipped water when a friend of a friend asked, “Hey do you know what’s taking so long?” I shrugged and asked if he knew any authors by the name “Kay.”
When drummer Ali Koehler (formerly of the Vivian Girls) took the stage some fans mistook her for Bethany, who used to have blonde hair. Cosentino walked on stage radically transformed from last spring. Someone in the crowd asked, “Did she go vegan?” She looked svelte in a tight dress, her hair now brown with straight-across bangs.
She began with “Brat”, her vocals far less distorted than her previous live performances. Although her voice needs little manipulation, the fuzzy feedback had added an ethereal quality. Bobb Bruno (previously on drums) moved to guitar, bringing fullness to the riffs lacking at South by Southwest.
Stripped of the fuzzy feedback, her lyrics took new meaning.
Unlike a lovesick teenager, Cosentino is aware of her folly, admitting that she’s “such a brat” and “just crazy.” Maybe it was being at the show alone or my acute (and rare) sobriety, but each lyric seemed delivered with a smirk, almost tongue-in-cheek.
It isn’t a boy or a beach Cosentino misses, but the intense feeling, the rock in your chest, that accompanies such obsession.
She belted out “I Want To” near the end of the set, for once I didn't want to go back. And perhaps neither did she.