If I hadn't cheated and I hadn't lied I'd be the one walking by his side.

It was somehow appropriate that no one seemed to know what time Best Coast would be taking the stage Friday night in the basement of a dorm at Grinnell College. The band's own MySpace said 1:30 p.m.; a few months ago, our friend Ben had pointed that out, and although an afternoon start time definitely seemed strange, I remember thinking, hey, it's a college campus, you never know, right, and immediately trying to convince Ben and Grant and Chet Boom to take off work early that day and give me a ride. The MySpace for UK openers Male Bonding said 7 p.m., though, so there was that. And an article in Grinnell student newspaper the Scarlet & Black listed a 9 p.m. start, but left it somewhat unclear whether that applied to Best Coast or Male Bonding. So I texted Chet Boom saying 9. Then Mrs. Des Noise pointed out that last time we went up to Grinnell, to see British duo Fuck Buttons, we missed the opening act. So she, Shane, our good-natured designated driver Chet Boom and I all rolled into Grinnell's Gardner Lounge a little after 8 p.m., while the bands were still setting up. Turned out we had a couple of hours to kill with the weird experience of openly consuming beer on a college campus. (You're allowed to do that there, apparently. When a guy nearby pulled out a cigarette, though, I noticed that one of the students working security told him no smoking.) It might have felt a little bit weirder because we were sort of creepily lurking in a stairwell.

So yeah, point is, that "what, me know what time I play?" indifference I think is sort of key to what makes Best Coast work. Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno write and perform these fuzzy, super melodic guitar-pop songs with really simple themes about loving someone or missing someone or not being able to communicate truthfully with someone because sometimes that's just the way it is you know? The sound is partly rooted in catchy 1990s indie-pop groups like Tiger Trap, say-- groups with maybe a 60s girl-group element to them, anyway-- and also partly in confessional 90s indie rockers like Liz Phair. Cosentino's voice, though, has an almost counterintuitively dignified, poised aspect to it that connects her to country-ish singers like Neko Case, and there's a traditional, almost retrogressive quality to her lyrics when it comes to gender roles-- does she have to always be sighing over that boy?-- that for some reason makes me want to really stretch and compare her to, like, Patsy Cline, whose records I should put on the turntable while I type the rest of this post. Hang on a sec.

OK this record is called The Heart You Break and I think I bought it at a Salvation Army on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens. The first song is called "Never No More", and Patsy is singing how she's not going to cry for him anymore, because she's found someone "who makes me happy when I'm blue." There's something strange about hearing a lyric like that in a totally straightforward way in 2010, especially when a woman is singing, because of course we all know that a woman doesn't need a man to be happy and satisfied and everybody can do whatever they want (a man singing the same lyric wouldn't be old-fashioned because the old-fashioned idea is that a guy can be "The Wanderer" but a girl who has more than one man is a "Runaround Sue"; that Drake song where he wants to be with every girl in the world is extremely traditional/patriarchal in this way, maybe sort of like "California Girls" (not "California Gurls") or that Louis XIV song "Finding Out True Love Is Blind" or that Big Pink song "Dominos" or something). But a feeling being outmoded or impolitic doesn't make it less real; that's the trouble with feelings. I sort of suspect that's partly why rap misogyny appeals to dudes who in real life are the opposite of misogynists; it taps into something that seemingly exists that isn't allowed to be expressed because we know better, or whatever, but maybe is still real no matter how uncomfortable it is? And I think that's at play a bit in Best Coast's songs, too-- every bit as much as Katy Perry, about whom she has complained, Cosentino is playing a somewhat submissive role in her lyrics, basing her happiness on a guy, just like Patsy-- "I hope that you'll forgive me / I admit that I was wrong," Patsy's singing right now-- but the songs express these simple feelings that are easily relatable, at least for me (you might not relate to them; that's OK, too!), and it doesn't matter if they're old-fashioned, any more than it matters that the feelings in Patsy's songs are old-fashioned, because if you feel them you feel them. Basically just because an emotion doesn't square with our values doesn't mean the emotion doesn't exist and one thing art can do is point out the discrepancy between our interior lives and our public presentations of ourselves (i.e. Patsy Cline fans in her day were probably a lot more interesting than they let on with their-- I'm assuming here-- churchgoing ways, you know?).

Except it would be hard to root for Cosentino singing "I miss you / I miss you / I miss you" over and over again in 2010 if she came across as all stuffy and uptight or something, I think, so there's where her brattily indifferent stage persona comes into play. This isn't some needy, weak person telling us to stand by your man (though the lyrics of "That's the Way Boys Are" sure do seem to suggest a woman has to put up with some of the more Bill Clinton-ish qualities of those of us who have Y chromosomes); this is a hilarious, low-key badass. "I like all the kids on drugs out there," she said at one point from the Grinnell stage the other night ("They tell you you're out of style / Unless you've had three or four," Patsy's singing now, I think she's talking about beaus rather than drinks though). At another point, when the well-meaningly over-zealous student security tried to stop the front rows from climbing up onstage, Cosentino deadpanned to a bunch of kids paying tens of thousands a year in tuition: "This is why you shouldn't go to college. Because it's stupid." She was right; it kind of was. It's like, Best Coast's in on the joke; Cosentino knows this might be old-fashioned, or "crazy," but it's the way it is, so what the fuck, you know? There's an interview where she says she wants people to listen to her music while smoking pot or making out in their cars, and I think that's kind of crucial. Right from the get-go she's downplaying the significance of her lyrics as Serious Art-- although as with the irreverent way Pavement treats its 1990s songs in its reunion tour, just because she acts like she doesn't think they're important doesn't mean they're not important. This all sort of reminds me of the line on the new Das Racist mixtape, which we were listening to on the drive up, where they say they're bringing back "all that smart shit that's actually stupid." Thanks to Best Coast for doing that and thanks to Das Racist, too.

Anyway, the band itself was surprisingly tight, way better than I remembered listening from afar at Pitchfork over the summer, and I was totally engrossed the entire time, even though I was getting a little tired by that point. Cosentino's voice was great live, less Neko Case-ish than I remembered from the record but still way stronger than your typical indie singer, and 2009 single "When I'm With You" definitely stood above the rest as the highlight for me, although I found myself recognizing and wanting to sing along with almost every song, including the bunch she played off new album Crazy for You (Chet Boom was getting sick of hearing "Boyfriend" though so he walked away to the bathroom, and I guess I couldn't really blame him; I've heard it too much, too). And that song-- "When I'm With You", I mean-- sort of sums up what I'm saying here, doesn't it, or at least let me pretend it does, like it's totally so simple you can make fun of the crazy/lazy rhyme if you want, but I still think you get the idea and maybe you have felt the same way: "The world is lazy / But you and me / We're just crazy / So when I'm with you, I have fun / When I'm with you, I have fun." Marnie Stern, who I generally like, has called this stuff "unacceptable" but I really don't understand why and I kind of hate the way being a music fan has started to feel like being a celebrity gossip fan (ooh, Katy Perry vs. Best Coast vs. Marnie Stern, does that mean Marnie Stern loves Katy Perry tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion) except about people who aren't even really celebrities. Some kids ran up on stage as you can see in the picture above, and there was a lot of clapping along, which is something I like doing but audiences in New York never seemed to do, at least not when I was still there. With the right music it can be fun!

...sorry, I had to go to Mrs. Des Noise's parents' place for peach cobbler. "had" to. I'm back now and the second side of the album is playing. The first song is called "I Can See an Angel"...

A church, a courtroom, and then a goodbye.
Male Bonding had the crowd moshing (in a peaceful, progressive-college way, so nobody got hurt I don't think) and chanting "oy!" and shouting "Let's go Hawks!" as in the Iowa Hawkeyes who lost last night at Arizona but they almost came back. I interviewed John Arthur Webb from Male Bonding for the cassette essay I wrote earlier this year for Pitchfork, and while we were waiting for the show to start I noticed these guys who looked like they were in a band sitting at their laptops, so I e-mailed John and told him I was standing outside wearing "uhh, a yellow Four Seasons T-shirt," and then this guy with glasses who turned out to be John came walking through the door that the student security guards would no longer let us go through and he said hi and I gave him a Miller Lite, which I hope is within the bounds of proper journalistic ethics. Shane was in the mosh pit while they were playing but I stood kind of back, they sounded good, but I still don't really know the songs that well aside from "Year's Not Long", which I think they played second to last.

OK the Patsy Cline record actually ended already because it was hard typing and staying in sync with the album, sorry. I'll put on this other record I have by her called Stop the World next and let you know if anything interesting happens.

(i don't feel like putting any links in this post but please check the previous post if you're in Des Moines for my fall concert preview!)


  1. Was at the show--additionally I wrote the student paper preview and interviewed Kevin from Male Bonding. Concerts are almost always listed as starting at 9 p.m. with the student body's understanding being that the opener will begin around 9:30-45 and the main act around 10:30. Even though we're in the middle of nowhere we like to keep the custom of shows never starting on time. Plus, you gotta give the kids plenty of time to pre-game. But yeah, she put on a great show, much better than I was expecting due to her whiny ass tweets leading up the show.

  2. Hi Max,

    Awesome! Thanks so much for the timing info. Glad you thought it was great, too. And yeah, wouldn't be a show if it started on time (sort of blew my mind when that happened last week in Kansas City for Pavement... it's how I knew I was at something out of my usual price range, I guess!).

  3. No problem, Grinnell always needs a little explaining to the outside world. Also, Pavement, as people keep talking about these days, loves to mess with the expected/normal standards for bands. One thing I forgot, the reason there were chants of "Let's go hawks" is because there were plenty of non-Grinnell listeners there. I made some comment to a friend outside the venue about how certain shows at Grinnell each year attracted all of the Iowa City Hipsters to which a girl standing near me corrected: "We're Ames Hipsters!"