Best Coast at the Phoenix, Saturday, July 21
BEST COAST at the Phoenix, Saturday, July 21. Rating: NNN
When you go to a Best Coast concert, it's for the cocooning reassurance found in songs from 2010's lo-fi and fuzzy Crazy For You - Bethany Cosentino's real-girl laments against shitty dudes and the feelings they inspire.
With that tumultuous summer now past, you can sing along to Our Deal ("When you leave me, you take away everything / You take all my money, you take all my weed") and I Want To with giddy triumph, secure in the knowledge that you've moved on.
That Crazy For You served such a specific purpose - to catalogue summer love - heightens the disconnect we feel toward Best Coast's glossy latest, The Only Place. Thankfully, live, the songs sound harder, less candied and more age-appropriate than the debut record's. Still, a cover of Fleetwood Mac's Storms resonated more than the sanitized emotionalism of newer songs Let's Go Home and No One Like You.
Much like the first time around, Cosentino is charming enough between songs but still just an okay performer - a crop-topped vessel for her same-old three-chord melodies.
SEPALCURE at the Drake, Thursday, July 19. Rating: NNNN
New dance music styles are usually at their best in that brief window before they're properly named and defined. In the case of Brooklyn duo Sepalcure (aka Travis Stewart and Praveen Sharma), people throw around the ambiguous label "future bass music."
But they actually sound like everything that's ever rocked a dance floor. Elements of vocal house, R&B, 2-step, classic rave, IDM, UK funky, broken beat, techno, permutations of dub and more blend into a cohesive sound that's all their own.
Though Stewart's solo career as Machinedrum has been blowing up, Sepalcure are still more under-the-radar. Nevertheless, the pair performs like they're on a massive festival stage entertaining thousands, even at a two-thirds-full Drake. No one could ever accuse them of phoning it in. And their enthusiasm was contagious. By the end of their set, everyone was grinning as widely as they were.
MURDER BY DEATH with CORY CHISEL AND THE WANDERING SONS and EAMON MCGRATH at the Horseshoe, Friday, July 20. Rating: NNN
Bloomington, Indiana, gothic alt-country rockers Murder by Death have a growing and enthusiastic local following, judging by the tightly packed crowd singing along to their whisky-fuelled murder ballads and devil songs.
They previewed material from their upcoming sixth album, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, and dusted off old tunes in celebration of the 10th anniversary of their debut album.
Cellist Sarah Balliet and multi-instrumentalist Scott Brackett brought orchestral flash and nuance, but the focal point was the deep, wacky, rock-opera-like voice of guitarist/frontman Adam Turla. It's truly a surprise, given his slight, unassuming appearance.
Though the set literally ended in sparks flying - they have a Brackett-built theremin that shoots electricity - the band's anthemic drinking-song formula got a little tiring.
Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons did a good job conveying their polished blues, country and gospel-inspired pop/rock during their first Canadian appearance. But it was altogether too clean and sterile following the gritty, heartfelt performance by local roots-punk Eamon McGrath and his band.
SKELETONWITCH and BARN BURNER at Hard Luck Bar, Saturday, July 21. Rating: NNNN
A feel-good night of death metal might sound like an oxymoron, but it sums up the vibe at the Hard Luck on Saturday. Athens, Ohio's Skeletonwitch are completely pummelling - all relentless double-bass-drumming and Death-reminiscent riffs flying at breakneck speeds. Yet burly singer Chance Garnette is the death metal equivalent of Fucked Up's Damian Abraham, a frontman as huggable as he is intense.
Between crushing songs largely drawn from the band's blacker and speedier fourth album, Forever Abomination, Garnette left behind his unholy growl in favour of an unscary Mid-western drawl. "Y'all are the best!" he shouted, dedicating a song to "every single person under this roof tonight." The sold-out crowd frequently took time out from moshing to raise devil horns.
Opener Barn Burner, an epic Montreal four-piece, aren't as sonically devastating, but are, in many ways, more engaging. Their progressive tendencies bring out a fan's inner music nerd, and they aren't afraid to veer into super-heavy stoner metal or pull a few Maidenesque guitarmonies from their toolbox of killer riffs. Bassist Pat Bennett also isn't afraid to climb onto the merch table mid-song and headbang ferociously without missing a note.