Best Coast Live at the Union Transfer in Philadelphia

California native surf rock band Best Coast performed live at the Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA to a packed house on Monday July 16, 2012.

 Still rolling through their tour after less than favorable reviews from Rolling Stone magazine of Best Coast’s performance at Metallica’s Orion Fest, they managed to impress this blogger with a smooth set of old goodies and new gems off their latest album The Only Place.

Bethany (vocals) and Bobb (lead guitar)

The east coast Philly crowd gave lead singer and lead guitarist Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno, respectively as warm a welcoming as they could get this far away from their west coast sun. The former farmer’s market was packed with people lining all three balconies and pit in what according to Cosentino was one of their biggest turnouts.

“This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever toured for,” said Cosentino to the crowd.

I did not make it for the first band’s performance and wasn’t really feeling Those Darlins which is a country/garage band from Nashville, TN. The lead ladies did their best to rock out and vibe but never seemed to hit it off with the crowd even with their most lively track “Fun Stix Party” consisting of such lyrics as “I’ll bring the pussy you bring the dicks, FUN STIX PARTY, FUN STIX PARTY!”

Looking around the crowd, it appeared that people were smirking and shuffling uncomfortably to the punkish song.

Opening for the mellow and poppy Best Coast has proven to be a strange job in the two shows that I’ve seen in Philly. The first time I saw them live was at the Starlight Ballroom a few years back when they were touring with Wavves, a surf-punk band. It seemed like a good match but the vibe was odd when the moshing teens had to suddenly tone their energy down for the main act’s soft, yearning tracks.

When Bethany and Bobb finally took the stage it was exciting to see the lead singer in good spirits. Based on reviews I’ve read, Bethany is often noted as being a little disgruntled or lackluster in her performance. The previous show at the Starlight featured a sweatpants and high heels wearing, champagne flute toting Bethany looking agitated to move through her set list and only stopping to mention to the crowd that she was in the hospital earlier.

“What were you in the hospital for?” a kid yelled from the tight crowd after a song ended.

“A UTI,” Bethany replied.

But at the Union Transfer I was pleased to see a trim, healthy, happy Bethany Cosentino appearing to enjoy the audience’s reception and turning it on beautifully in return. As mentioned, she played all the crowd favorites from their first album Crazy for You and peppered in some newer stuff from their latest and second album The Only Place.

This sounded to me like a more mature, professional sounding Best Coast with a tighter drummer and added bassist. I liked the quality of the new drummer but have noted a lot of negative responses from audiences when former Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler was dropped from the lineup unexpectedly.

My favorites were “Up All Night” performed beautifully live and her frequent Fleetwood Mac cover of “Storms”. I had “Up All Night” in a very lo-fi recording which sounded very dark and muffled. I loved the song then but enjoyed it even more when they ditched the lo-fi vibe and recorded it professionally for The Only Place.

They step off the stage in trademark rock fashion and return in minutes for “the longest encore ever” according to my friend. “What was that six songs?” It didn’t seem very long at all to me as Best Coast have some Ramones-like timed songs clocking in at only a few minutes each, if that sometimes.

Bobb kicks into the opening riff and Bethany begins spilling her deepest secret longing for a desired “Boyfriend” and the cell phone screens light up in the pit to record the most crowd pleasing number.

As people filtered out of the Union Transfer the buzz was positive and spirits were high the way they should be after listening to an upbeat, poppy, warm surf rock band sing of the Pacific Ocean, relatable issues with love, smoking weed, and living in the legendary greatest place in the world: California. Ah, the west coast, supposedly the Best Coast.


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