Life is full of clichés. When you’re in love, you behave foolishly. When it rains, it pours. When the sun shines, the world feels right. Best Coast revitalizes these tropes to create straightforward narratives stemming not from a lack of originality but the recognition of the often comical simplicity of human emotion. On “Goodbye,” vocalist Bethany Cosentino sings, “I lost my job / I miss my mom / I wish my cat could talk.” The clarity of the lyrics serves a purpose: to create a common denominator in its audience, something everyone can access. Isn’t that the genius of true pop music? Best Coast offers relatable vignettes of love, existential crises, and life by the beach in Southern California.
Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno met through collaborating on an experimental pop project, Pocohaunted. After releasing a few initial singles, the pair struck gold on their critically acclaimed debut LP Crazy For You (2010) with their formula of surf rock, classic pop song structure, and honest lyricism. This effort was followed by The Only Place (2012) and the mini-album Fade Away (2013). California Nights (2015) introduced higher production standards and heavier rock, while keeping their established aura intact.
On Monday, September 25, Best Coast stopped in Berkeley to play a show at dual bar and, as of late, concert venue Cornerstone. The performance space has a side-stage feel; past the bar is the separate north room and dance floor, usually the home of ping pong tables and bean bag tosses.
Los Angeles metal fusion band The Birth Defects were a puzzling yet interesting choice to open for a surf pop group. However, I am partial to kitchen sink bills and appreciate the educational value of exposure to unfamiliar music.
Cosentino has evolved prodigiously as a performer over the years. For multiple numbers she laid down her gold Stratocaster and solely sang. Vocalists can often be pigeonholed or trivialized for not playing an instrument — and by vocalists, I mean female vocalists. What so fiercely inspires me about Bethany Cosentino is her ability to remain a pop star on her own terms. Her onstage persona is dimensional, candid and down to earth.
The set was peppered with new and old favorites, including “Fear Of My Identity,” “Our Deal,” “So Unaware,” and “The Only Place.” “California Nights” was a particular standout number of the show and translates excellently live.
Before closing with “When Will I Change,” Best Coast performed one of the most anticipated songs of the night. Cosentino segwayed with, “I hate this song but you’d go mad if we didn’t play it. Do you know what it is?” Every patron yelled “Boyfriend!!” in unison. “That’s the one,” Cosentino confirmed, and delved in.
As Cosentino pointed out, Best Coast has not released an album in over two years. The fact the show sold out underscores the enduring relevance and resonance of Best Coast’s music. Because California will never go out of style.
Article and Photos by Ally Mason