I went in to last night’s grrl-powered gig at the High Dive expecting two-thirds of a good show. That’s exactly what I ended up getting. I actually bailed, as per my own recommendation in the Up & Coming section, on the Vivian Girls’ set, even though I had designs on sitting through it. It’s not that I find their music particularly bilious or anything—I’m just not a fan of their sound, and, for reasons I’ll get into later, I opted to ditch the congested High Dive crowd early.
On the upside, TacocaT and Best Coast killed it. While admittedly my glomming onto the TacocaT party train is something that’s been long overdue, I was nonetheless spellbound by their set. Their hook-heavy brat-pop formula, with its tubular guitars and insular lyrics, makes for one of the most charming riffs on spunky cascadia I’ve ever heard. It’s hard not to beam at the mere thought of a band with such relatable touchstones (cats, junk TV, palindromes) and lyrics that sound cherry-picked from a messenger bag full of witty localisms. Their set was fast n’ fun, with some new material sandwiched in amongst their established crowd-pleasers. They opened with “Leotard,” and followed it up with one of the aforementioned new tracks, a song about a cat named Oscar who lives in retirement home and can predict the deaths of the people living there (this adorable guy). They played “Baby Tooth” from their split 7” with Ghost Mice, “Reptile,” “Luxury Living,” and “Volcano.” When they tore through “Kevin Costner,” I couldn’t help but wish they’d found enough wiggle room in the verses for some kind of variation on this hilarious Waterworld-related tweet from band member Eric Randall: "you know what I think? I think he has a fish dick and that's why he won't fuck anyone.”
Best Coast took awhile setting up. Guitarist Bob Bruno puzzled the crowd for a bit with some janky attempts at tuning a guitar, then walked offstage and reappeared with a bass. Beth Cosentino, Best Coast’s sole songwriter and signature vocalist, reluctantly informed the audience that Bruno’s baritone guitar had been stolen (!) the night before in Vancouver. And last night was their final stop on tour. Cue the crowd’s sympathetic awwws. Their set ended up being totally solid anyway, despite Bruno having to wing his contributions on bass. Best Coast, like TacocaT, played it safe with their opening track, using poppy standout “When I’m With You,” to buoy their spectators into attentive adulation. To keep things lively (or maybe to compensate for the lack of guitar solos), they performed a laudable take on Lesley Gore’s “That’s The Way Boys Are.” Sometimes it’s a gamble when a band covers something to which their sound is so clearly indebted, but Best Coast pulled it off with style to spare. Their set also included party hats, guest vocals from Kickball Katy, and some rando dudes on tambourine. Like I said, lively.
Seattle ultimately got a pretty idiosyncratic Best Coast set, but all of the inherent promise of the Best Coast sound, which likely spread like gospel over the course of their tour, was on full display. It’s a testament to Cosentino that despite the ubiquity of her broad-stroke musical influences (vestigial traces of which can be heard in everything from The Raveonettes’ mainstream genre-mining, to swampier revivalists like Vivian Girls), she manages to wholly own her sound. Maybe it has something to do with her involvement in more left-field endeavors like Pochahaunted, or her initial teenage rejection of major label contract bait.
More after the jump, including the grisly details on how my night ended.
After Best Coast warpped, I stepped outside with a friend. Vivian Girl Cassie Ramone came storming towards me. To put it mildly, she was not very pleased about my write-up for the night’s show. She called me an asshole and told me to “fuck off.” I’ll admit I might have gone overboard in actively recommending people pass on Vivian Girls’ set. Should I have been so douchey about my distaste for their brand of lo-fi pop? Probably not, but I paid for it with a verbal punk rock bitch-slap.
The thing about Vivian Girls is that they’re an incredibly divisive band (Pitchfork’s review of their sophomore record Everything Goes Wrong opened by saying “there's almost no gray area when it comes to Vivian Girls—people either love or hate this band”), and I happen to be among those who are underwhelmed by the VG output. In the grand scheme of Stranger music crit, I’m in the minority on this position; Michaelangelo Matos praised Everything Goes Wrong while acknowledging their halo of controversy, Grandy has dug on Vivian Girls’ “laconic vocal harmonies” and “bright brash melodies,” and Ari Spool instantly took to the band. But judging by the comments sections of VG-related Stranger content, they’re still causing schisms in the music nerd community. To continue to be so hotly debated, the Brooklyn trio must be doing something right. Whatever that mystery “something” is continues to elude me.