By: Nick Setacci
Have you ever had a guilty pleasure? Cupcakes? Full-fat gelato? Lap dances? Well I’m not entirely ashamed to say that one of my musical guilty pleasures is L.A. indie rock outfit Best Coast, who played The Phoenix this past weekend with opening act Those Darlins, out of Nashville.
Stepping into the Phoenix is like going back in time 20 years. There is beer served in plastic cups, multicolored stained glass windows, even some disco balls. You’d almost be forgiven for asking a pretty girl for her pager number. So, of course, the crowd looks out of place. The skinny jeans, boat shoes and abundance of Abercrombie and Fitch don’t exactly fit in with the outdated chandeliers and strategically cracked roman columns bathed in orange light the way Doc Martins, ripped regular fitting jeans and plaid (purchased from a department store rather than a Queen West boutique) would have in the early 90s, headbanging to a grunge act. Despite the décor, and the fact that it’s located in a part of the city that the west-side cool kids need to search for on Google maps before they head out because they didn’t know College Street changes names east of Yonge: it works for me.
Those Darlins got the show going with a mostly upbeat one hour set. The place was more than half full and lead singer Jessi Darlin was wearing what seemed to be a sequined one-piece bikini without any pants. Kudos to them for doing their job and getting the crowd warmed up nicely with their mix of sexy lyrics and southern influenced American garage rock.
Best Coast took the stage a little after 10pm and the main room at the Phoenix was probably not all that far from capacity. Considering the size of the venue, the very vocal crowd did a great job of creating the atmosphere feel more like a small stadium than a nightclub. Lead singer and guitarist Bethany Cosentino interacted well with the crowd. From commenting on the crowd’s energy, to the witty banter with bandmate Bobb Bruno, to the momentary modeling of a hometown Toronto Blue Jays cap, she made the show interesting. The set list featured a mix of older, well known tracks from their debut album Crazy For You, as well as a sizeable sampling of their current offering, The Only Place.
At times it can feel like a lot of their songs seem to bleed into one another with little in the way of discernible differences, but I prefer to see that as part of their laid back, low-fi, surfer dude appeal. The lyrics aren’t especially deep, with most tracks centering around the ups and downs of young love or how awesome it is to live on the California coast, but they do the trick. Old favourites such as Crazy For You, Summer Mood and The End received the bulk of the enthusiasm from the mostly young, mostly female (and their supportive boyfriends) crowd.
Guilty pleasure categorization notwithstanding, Best Coast is one of the better live acts I’ve seen this year, and Bethany Cosentino’s genuinely outgoing and friendly demeanor, combined with the feeling that they are truly having fun up there on stage made for a good overall experience, and left me with a feeling of money well spent.