by Blair Stiles
Best Coast|Bruiser Queen|Sleepy Kitty The Firebird May 30, 2012
Best Coast is vocalist and guitarist Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno. Prior's to this month's second full-length, The Only Place, Cosentino was pleased to write songs about her cat, and churn out fuzzy gems like the infectious "When I'm With You" off 2009's Black Iris seven-inch that finishes with the aching repetition of the line "I hate sleepin' alone". After several EPs and one LP, 2010's Crazy For You, Cosentino still weaves tales of depression and loneliness with guitar, bass, and drum play that, to some degree, sound happy. This time around, on The Only Place, the sound is cleaner thanks to Jon Brion (whose recent work includes Kanye West and Fiona Apple). Cosentino's voice is clear, precise and unmediated by low-fi effects. This extends to the band's live act.
And everyone, from a girl with nuclear-run-off green hair, girls wearing items from Cosentino's Urban Outfitter's clothing line, plaid brandishing young men (there was LOADS of plaid), to a father-son outing, could be spotted last night at the Firebird.
Ed. RFT Music sent two very different writers to the Firebird last night. For Roy Kasten's take, go here.
Filling in for Nashville's sibling duo, Jeff the Brotherhood (a "vicious" game of basketball netted Jake Orall a broken hand the day before, explained Cosentino), were St. Louis acts Sleepy Kitty and Bruiser Queen.
Both were asked to play the night prior to the show. And under such short notice, both bands were solid, and added exponentially to a triple decker line-up of girl power. With Brubeck in full belt mode, they produced a killer cover of the Beatles' "Saw Her Standing There." Regardless of whose material he's playing, Sult is an enthusiatic drummer. And a damn fine hype man. There are rarely any classy ways for a band to pimp its material. Sult managed to advertise 2011's debut full length Infinity City, an upcoming album, and Tower Groove's double-LP between almost every song with ample aplomb. The track Sleepy Kitty plays on the compilation is the Missouri-checking Pavement cover, "Box Elder," which the duo brought out as the last song in its set. It was a surprising compliment to its original material -- a rambunctious mix of pop and post-punk-which went over well with Best Coast fans. Brubeck's voice is syrup-y sweet, a little unhinged, and somewhat reminiscent of Cosentino's comely croon.
With a caterwaul cry unlike Brubeck's or Cosentino's, Bruiser Queen's Morgan Nusbaum held her own in the middle of the lineup. Nusbaum's voice is dexterous, deftly coasting from cat-in-heat howls to the more subtle nuances heard throughout her solo work. Wild, and on key, Nusbaum was a hell of a show all by herself, and is probably the coolest chick in St. Louis. With every whip of her bleached-blonde mop, Nusbaum and drummer Jason Potter soared through their set with comfort. Even when their gear began to act up, unplugging itself several times, Nusbaum and Potter ran with it, "Sorry, I fucked up. I was rockin' too hard. Well, it's punk rock, who gives a shit, right?" Nusbaum offered as an apology. Apparently no one in the audience of the sold out Firebird gave a shit -- they responded with frenetic clapping and whistling.
When Best Coast took the stage at 10:22, the Firebird's lights fell off, leaving the venue in total darkness. The band walked on stage quietly, to a loud welcome, and cut right into "The Only Place," the lead single of the new record, and one of Cosentino's many love notes to her home state of California.
To further emphasize Cosentino's amorous feelings, the cover art for the record is a bear craddling the Golden State. Yeah, Cosentino and Bruno, who bobbed continuously during the set, love California. Cosentino boasts, "We've got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, we've got the waves." Cosentino and company brought all those things to St. Louis. They created a relaxed atmosphere.
I was worried the band's set, a twenty-song odyssey into grief, paramours and unacquired desires, would drag. But Best Coast's odes are short, and despite melancholy subject matter, maintain an up-tempo air. If consistency is to be revered, Cosentino deserves a bow as the reigning queen of surf pop.
Best Coast's set was more about atmosphere than performance. For instance: the band ran into some hiccups during its sixth song, "Sun Don't Shine." Cosentino's mic came unplugged twice, but with the help of a speedy roadie, all was under control in a matter of moments -- with Cosentino hardly batting an eye. Consentino herself is a firm front woman. She's hard to ignore, and pairs dance moves like the ladies from the Robert Palmer music videos with laid-back charisma. There wasn't a stand out track for the evening. The set, with the exception of the mic tantrum, ran smooth and was enjoyable. The audience was well mannered and appreciative, and due to Best Coast's nonchalance, felt compelled at one point to yell out shot suggestions for Cosentino after she requested one.
Cosentino laments in a fashion sophomoric enough to be an extension of her high school journal, yet without much hubbub, creates music around those sad, couplet-heavy lyrics with the consistency of sea foam. Critics have been known to cite Cosentino's lyrics as "anti-feminist." Cosentino pines with an open heart for a lover, but she also incites a listener's most impish and delicate emotions. Best Coast's songs, like the way Cosentino dealt with the mic mishap, acknowledge the troublesome aspects of life without being pinned down with sorrow. Cosentino let the set flow with a casual air that left the audience energized and ready to continue on with their night.
Personal Bias: "When I'm With You" is the ringtone I use for my boyfriend. No, he has no idea who Best Coast is.
Random Detail: The floor of the Firebird is conspicuously sticky...and the random-ass mosh pit that happened during "Boyfriend." Seriously? "Boyfriend"? Maybe if they had played "Angsty"...and Cosentino's legs are fabulous.
Overheard: "This is so tame compared to last night -- I'm not covered in beer!" said a pretty girl who had been in attendance at Pig Slop last night for Brooklyn's Japanther and St. Louis' Little Big Bangs' game of Round Robin.
Cosentino's Stage Banter: After realizing the TV behind the bar was in use, "Is that Anchorman on the TV?!", and after announcing it was the merch guy's 21st birthday, "You should all buy him shots. Buy me a shot, too. It's my 21st birthday too."