People attend rock and roll shows for more reasons than you can count. From the simple joy of community to deeper intellectual and spiritual quests, there are very few needs a rock show hasn’t met for somebody. For me, the itch that rock music most ably scratches is a need for escape. Whether it be the existential threat of nuclear war or the fact that I locked my keys in my apartment, it seems stress is omnipresent.
For many, a bass, a kit, and a few guitars cranked up to eleven offer a way to survive and even thrive amidst the chaos and tumult of the day-to-day. For this reason, I leapt at the opportunity to cover Beach Slang, a band who understands this better than any.
Though beach slang is by no means a simple band, they are a band with identifiable roots, and reference points. They are a Rock band and they play punk-infused anthems. Period. In interviews, they talk about The Replacements, and a case could be made that they sound like Jawbreaker, among others. Unsurprisingly, both of their opening acts trodd some of the same territory.
Hannah racecar, a three-piece from Seattle, opened with a set that recalled the best parts of 90’s alt-rock, with fantastic peaks and intensity turned up to 11. The only real problem with the set was that the vocals were mixed low for some of the set. It was a special night for the band as well, as it was both their first ever night on tour, and the birthday of the frontman’s mother, whom the crowd sang to. It was short, sweet, and perfect for both the young band and the audience.
From the outset, it was clear that Dave Hause had a few more miles under his belt. A 20 year punk veteran, Hause brought his band, The Mermaids, to town for the second time this year and took the crowd by storm with his raucous brand of heartland rock. Opening with Bury me in Philly Dave channeled the Americana-rock canon better than anyone, save maybe Ryan Adams, that I’ve seen in recent memory.
The lyrics were great, and the tasteful organ presence recalled immediately the late Tom Petty. Autism Vaccine Blues was up next, and Saw Hause’s dynamic stage presence take center stage. Like Beach Slang’s (Excellent) Frontman James Alex, Hause pulled off the tricky balance of exuding both Confidence and Vulnerability, to great success.
For C’mon kid, Hause used an acoustic guitar but kept up the intensity, vocals now clearly coming through in the mix. It was a good song amidst what felt like a sea of good songs. Strong harmonies of Divine Lorraine and the rocking We could be Kings gave way to the beautiful ballad Time will Tell. At this point, the show took a turn in the form of an expletive-laden political song, as if to remind us that no matter how many organs you add, a punk show is still a punk show.
One of the few love songs of the set, With you came and went before Hause brought back out the acoustic guitar for one of the great moments of the show, a tribute to Petty with Learning to Fly. The moment was heartfelt, sincere, and a fitting way to end a great set.
Though Dave and his band were a tough act to follow, I knew Beach Slang would be up for the challenge.
They play the type of punky anthems that tend to go over better with a live audience than on record (Which is not to say the records aren’t great), and I knew that their cult following would show up in droves. Fortunately, I was correct on both fronts. Opener Takin’ a ride was a pleasant surprise, as it is rarely played. It brought the trademark Beach Slang energy and got the show off on the right foot.
Though the term “fan favorite” could apply to any number of beach slang songs, Wasted Days of Youth, and Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas really fit the bill. Hearing them back to back so early in the show was a treat, one of many the band would have in store for their fans throughout the evening. The heavier Ride the Wild Haze followed, before the immediately identifiable riff of Punks in a Disco Bar kicked in.
Punks is probably their most famous song among outsiders and was well received by the decidedly insider-heavy crowd. Filthy Luck had a great replacements-esque guitar lick. It was at this point that the show got a little unpredictable. After a bit of stage banter, the band jumped headfirst into a somewhat ironic cover of Santana’s hit Smooth, the first of many 90’s covers the band would play in the set. If nothing else, it gave a glimpse of their sense of humor, which hadn’t surfaced as of that point.
Next up was my favorite of theirs, Dirty Cigarettes, which predates their two studio albums.It was clear that the audience shared my affinity for the song, singing along and pumping their fists righteously. After Noisy Heaven, the show took a turn for the more serious.
After bringing a friend on stage to give a moving speech about another recently fallen friend of the band, and one who was affiliated with The Replacements, the band broke into Bastards of Young, a Replacements classic. It was another wonderful tribute, and clearly an important one for the band to partake in. Luckily the crowd was with them every step of the way, again singing along to every word.
Crowd Favorites Spin the Dial, and American Girls and French Kisses came up next before another wave of 90’s covers, this time including, among others, Lit’s My Own Worst Enemy, and Jawbreaker’s Boxcar, the latter of which was played more earnestly. Among the covers, Alex snuck in his own Warpaint, which had been requested by a fan repeatedly early in the evening.
Future Mixtape for the Art Kids and Punk or Lust saw the band return to the urgency of earlier in the set, and ended the set with a bang. The encore saw the band return to a similar formula, Alex playing a few songs solo, including one final moving petty tribute in even the losers, and a few more covers with the full band, the highlight of which was another Replacements tune in the form of Can’t Hardly Wait.
The set was urgent, the set was fun, and the show was great. All three bands brought their A-game, and the fans left happy. Beach Slang showed why they’re regarded by some as one of the best young bands in rock, and, more importantly, by throwing a show that honored so much of rock’s history, why rock is important and should be cherished. Shows like these don’t come around very often, and I’m fortunate to have been there.