By Evan Smith
Summer moved inside for a few hours on Sunday night, as Los Angeles duo Best Coast brought their sun-dappled brand of surf rock to the stage at Neumos.
While touring as a quartet, the band’s trademark sound lies in the eminently singable vocals of Bethany Cosentino and rolling guitar of multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno. Since teaming up in 2009, the pair has released two full-length albums, scoring their first hit with the song “Boyfriend” off 2010’s decidedly low-fi “Crazy For You.” While the material for 2012’s “The Only Place” remained much the same (think: surf, sand, and love), the duo teamed up with noted producer Jon Brion to create a cleaner sound, and again secured a hit with the album’s title track.
While the band doesn’t feature vocal harmonies, Bruno predictably cites the Beach Boys as a major influence, picking up from the SoCal legends in the nuanced sound of his layered rhythm section, offering a timbral variety to support Cosentino’s vocals.
Playing to a crowd that featured a large high-school contingent enjoying a late Sunday night before classes resume, Best Coast offered a playful romp through much of their album material. While the additional touring personnel allowed Bruno to deliver a variety of lead guitar lines that helped accentuate the simple vocals, the band seemed largely content to stay reigned in to the recordings, foregoing any long instrumental sections in favor of sequencing the catchy vocal hooks in quick succession.
Still, the formula was clearly working on this night, as the sizable crowd was more than happy to sing along to every number as the band made its way through their hour-plus set. Cosentino added to the happy-go-lucky atmosphere by engaging in friendly crowd banter between songs, which also had the effect of lessening the feeling of parading out two-minute tracks one after another.
On what was a somewhat chilly August night, it seemed like the band had brought some Southern California weather with them, as temperatures inside the crowded venue were soaring by the time the headliners came on stage, prompting Cosentino to note that the show would qualify for the “top ten hottest shows we’ve ever played.” Announcing “a song about California,” the band launched into “The Only Place” early in the set, motivating the local crowd to form a chorus and sing: “Why would you live anywhere else? We’ve got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, we’ve got the waves,” firmly establishing the summer party and never looking back. The group also took the opportunity to play unreleased selections from an upcoming EP, with some members of the audience still figuring out how to join in by the end of the first hearing.
While Best Coast’s music may not break new ground, their California-centric niche is undeniably memorable, at its best catching an unforgettable melodic hook and riding a three-minute surf-rock wave back to shore.
Local openers Cumulus, soon releasing their first album on Seattle’s Trans-Records, were another highlight, employing both powerful pop-punk sensibilities and understated melody in a varied and effective thirty-minute set.