Noise Pop 2015 continued on Tuesday with an excellent show at Bottom of the Hill. LA’s Best Coast – whose last proper Bay Area show was a year ago at The Fox Theater – headlined the show at the tiny, 250-capacity club, so naturally advance tickets sold out in seconds, and day-of tickets at the door produced a line around the block.
With a start time of 9:00 PM and three opening bands, it seemed that the capacity crowd were in for a long night. Thankfully, all three acts were just plain great. Opener singer/songwriter/Pasadena native Phoebe Bridgers played as upbeat a set as one can after multiple apologies for being such a “downer.” Self-deprecation notwithstanding, she played a lively if downbeat acoustic set that definitely impressed the still-filing-in crowd. She’s got a great voice and plays like she’s been doing it her whole life. Definitely worth checking out.
Oakland’s Night School were up next. “Doo-wop garage rock” as their bio says. They lived up to the billing, but often the hard edge was beautifully smoothed out by dreamy lead guitar that was more reminiscent of Real Estate than Sunny Day Real Estate. They switched up drummer and singer/guitarist often, with more energy coming at the cost of some musicality, and ended on a great note with a high energy cover of the Misfits’ “Hybrid Moments.”
Another Bay Area band, San Francisco’s The She’s, stepped up with more 60’s inspired rock/pop. They mentioned that Bottom of the Hill was the first show they ever played, though it was decidedly less crowded, but they shouldn’t be playing to many empty rooms anymore. Their sound is bright, but with some tight minor key harmonies to even things out. They also employed some instrumental/vocal switcheroos, with bassist Sami Perez busting out the Rickenbacker and singer/guitarist Hannah Valente taking up Perez’s bass. The best part is that Perez plays left-handed, but Valente made do just playing the left-handed bass. And as if the 60’s influence wasn’t evident enough, The She’s paid tribute to the late Lesley Gore, (though not with Gore’s “It’s My Party” – the night was really Best Coast’s party, after all). Instead, they delivered a killer rendition of “You Don’t Own Me.” And when guitarist Eva Treadway needed to step offstage to fetch a backup guitar, Perez and Valente launched into a few wonderfully harmonized verses of Georgia Gibb’s “Seven Lonely Days.”
After hearing all the opening acts, there was little mystery why they were all playing the same show. Different aspects of the night’s headliners are obvious in each group’s musical DNA, but they sound more like offspring than imitators.
Finally, just past 11:30, Best Coast took the stage. The duo of singer/guitarist Bethany Cosentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno has swelled to a five-member live band, and the band definitely looked like they’ve graduated from tiny stages. Even having roadies in a space the size of Bottom of the Hill seemed a bit ludicrous. Cosentino remarked that this was probably the closest she’d ever been to Bruno on stage, and feared a flying guitar to her face. Bottom of the Hill was Best Coast’s first SF gig, according to Cosentino, but back then there were 40% fewer Best Coast Live members.
Perhaps in a nod to those earlier days, the set included some rarely-played tunes like “The End,” and early hits like “Goodbye,” which may be the Best Coastiest song of all with its lyrics about romantic frustration, weed, and Cosentino’s cat.
The band also unveiled the title track to their upcoming record California Nights, a slow burner thick with heavy guitars. The expanded live band gives the song a sound that’s reminiscent of the shoegaze/dreampop of fellow LA-bred band Dum Dum Girls, and it definitely stands out from the surf-rock sounds of Best Coast’s earlier work. It’s a more muscular, mature Best Coast, and while the added personnel muddies some of the charming simplicity of the older songs, it’s a welcome sonic evolution for the band and bodes well going forward.
Best Coast played 20 songs in their set, thankfully just mimicking the standard pre-encore stage walk-off (there’s really no backstage to go to at Bottom of the Hill anyway) and finished their three song “encore” with probably their biggest hit, “Boyfriend.” In all, a pretty good way to wrap up an excellent night of bright California rock.
Best Coast also released the video for “California Nights” yesterday, which you can see below, along with a gallery from last night’s show.
Photos: Noise Pop show at Bottom of the Hill 02.24.15 w/ Phoebe Bridgers, Night School, The She’s, and Best Coast