Best Coast

The Imperial, Vancouver BC, June 3

Best CoastThe Imperial, Vancouver BC, June 3
Photo: Jashua Peter Grafstein
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When Best Coast hit the scene in 2010 with Crazy for You, they touched on a kind of pop sentimentality heard in the girl groups of the '60s filtered through a fresher, lo-fi indie sound softened by a California stoner haze. Featuring singer Bethany Cosentino's cat fancying and lovelorn lyrics, one couldn't help but feel a fondness for the warmth and emotional honesty of the songs, their summery feel warming over the anxiety of its singer.
 
Their seal of approval has long since tarnished. On their Jon Brion-assisted 2012 album, The Only Place, they polished their indie-pop so thoroughly that they lost the lo-fi tag, alongside much of their intimacy. Their third album and major label debut, 2015's California Nights, was their cleanest and most straightforward yet, ditching the Ramones-meets-Spector feel entirely for a kind of banal post-alternative pop-rock vaguely in the realm of Stars or Tegan and Sara. If Crazy for You was their weed album, it sounds as though they've now embraced more sedative effects of booze, and the first gig on the official tour for their latest album added fuel to that fire.
 
The band was relatively together at the start as they worked through a few tracks from their recent albums, with Cosentino flanked by primary member Bobb Bruno on lead guitar, Joe Bautista on rhythm and keys, Brady Miller on drums and Brett Mielke on bass. As they launched into "When I'm With You," a bonus track from their first album, the crowd gleefully joined in to sing all the words, and the band finally sank their teeth into a simple but effective melody with three guitars up front. For a moment, the power and delivery of their original incarnation seemed primed to break through, but, unfortunately, Cosentino started coughing by the end of the track.

Claiming she choked on her own hair, this led to a lengthy coughing session between songs, which would subsequently be peppered throughout the rest of the show. After the well-received "I Don't Know How," she jokingly thanked people for being there to hear her cough, during which she plaintively asked, "What the fuck is happening?" She then drank more wine to try and tame it, but her voice would remain rough around the edges for the remainder.
 
Generally speaking, their newer tracks came off safe and dull, and this seemed evident by their tepid response. The audience spent more time casually chatting than applauding between songs, coming to life primarily when something circa Crazy for You came along. Granted, Cosentino tried to engage them as she asked how the crowd was doing, ranking their collective "woo" as an 11 out of 10, and tossing a candy she thought was a Taco Bell sauce packet into the crowd, but the set's most awkward moment had yet to come.
 
After performing "When Will I Change," which had a decent moment when Cosentino tore out a strip of distortion on guitar to dirty up their otherwise pristine pop-rock, she decided it was time for the encore. Apparently, the rest of her band didn't get the memo. At the song's end, she took off her guitar, and started wandering away, yelling loud enough at her band to get off the stage that you could hear her from the back of the room. Yet, the band merely shuffled in place with looks of confusion on their faces, and ended up waiting around until Cosentino gave up on the encore bit and returned to the mic to abruptly announce that the next track would be their last song.
 
As is their custom, Best Coast played "Boyfriend" last, the opening number from their career-making debut album, which remains their most recognizable song. Sadly, Cosentino's voice was flat and a little unstable, her last sound being a weird half-moan/half-scream in which her voice cracked a few times. After this, she grabbed her giant bottle of wine and sauntered offstage, ditching the rest of the band to stand there and complete the song.

The rhythm section hightailed it next, as did a third of the crowd, leaving Bruno and Bautista to play with feedback on either side of the stage for another couple of minutes until the house lights started coming on, at which point they awkwardly shuffled off to a smattering of applause from the remaining crowd. With all the lights on, the paying stragglers attempted to start an encore chant, but were cut off by the house system's playlist.
 
Suffice to say, it was not an auspicious start for this tour.
 
Best Coast at Imperial, Vancouver BC, 2015 06 03
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