Nothing infuriates me more than a show that doesn't start on time. Six hundred people standing idly inside of a club because its management wants to sell a few more beers is just unforgivable. On this evening, the venue started things an hour later than advertised; that's 600 man hours wasted. We could have cured cancer in that amount of time! So the way I see it, it's the Granada's fault if your grandma's tumour metastasises. Unforgivable.
It was just after 8:30 when the Nashville duo of JEFF the Brotherhood took the stage. Were the cheers that arose from the band's fans, or from those just tired of waiting for anything to happen? While I was in the latter camp, and the majority of the audience were politely biding their time until the headliner went on, there was a vocal minority of guys near the stage who jumped, danced, and screamed for the entirety of the band's 35minute set. For them, the band's long stoner rock jam session was ambrosia. For me, it was revisiting a confusing part of my childhood when adults didn't behave as such.
With no cynicism, JEFF the Brotherhood seems to live the weedy '70s lifestyle, and not just ape its musical trends. Guitarist/vocalist Jake Orrall has long dirty blonde hair that obscures his face in most situations, and partially obscures the home-made back patch affixed to his sleeveless jean jacket. If Hollywood decides to make a Doobie Brothers biopic, his moustache makes him a shoe-in for the role of Patrick Simmons. His guitar is a curious custom-made beast, with a SG-like lucite body and a neck that looks like it's from a Gibson Firebird. Most importantly, it only has three strings meaning power chords are not just his choice, they're his only option. Insane amounts of phaser and flange are added to create his enormous low-end heavy sound. Drumming brother Jamin Orrall keeps his playing simple, allowing the guitar to provide the flash, but when given space, he's able to play the hell out of his small kit.
While I can appreciate the elements of '90s slacker rock that bubble up on the band's records, its live show was dominated by disappointing, fuzzed-out jam sessions. Excepting one new song that didn't hide its debt to Guided By Voices, most of the band's material just didn't appeal to me. I figure JEFF the Brotherhood is probably best enjoyed in a parking lot with a pony bottle of Miller High Life in one hand and a joint in the other. Let's just say I'm not the band's target audience.
The room had filled in quite nicely when the members of Best Coast walked onto the stage. While the band is nominally the project of vocalist/guitarist Bethany Cosentino, in the last several years it has swollen to include not only permanent member guitarist Bobb Bruno, but a touring rhythm section comprised of drummer Rafe Mandel and bassist Brett Mielke. Earlier tours catered to the obscuring lo-fi fuzz that was a hallmark of the band's first album, but this line up was built to reproduce the clean, if still reverb-soaked, sound of the the band's latest sunny recording in almost eerie exactness.
The band's sun-drenched surf pop is particularly easy, as are most of the band's lyrical themes of love, longing and the beach. Each song is delivered in bright tones from Cosentino's Fender guitar, with small accents from Bruno during the verses, and his louder leads during the choruses. The rhythm section treads behind it all, never stealing focus. Cosentino has a pleasant voice that is delivered without quirks or embellishments, but it doesn't stand out either. If words like "easy" and "pleasant" aren't adjectives you like to describe your music, then Best Coast probably isn't the band for you.
At her core, Cosentino is a shy performer. Banter doesn't come easy for her, but when she talks to her audience it's completely genuine and without affectation or clichÃ©. However, after it was pointed out that she mis-remembered the details of a previous concert in Lawrence, she withdrew noticeably. It wasn't until her final song of the set that she truly embraced her audience again, and then, it took the non sequitur of an audience member passing her a bandana decorated with the phrase "dog cock" to bring her out of her shell. After expressing her confusion, and thanking the crowd, the band played "Up All Night," closing out a satisfying 65-minute set.
And then there was the encore.
After a few minutes of cajoling, the band returned for its planned five-song encore. Cosentino picked up right where she left off – with "dog cock" – as if she had been puzzling over it in the dressing room, and that bemusement was the sole impetus for returning to the stage. It was cuter than it sounds, but just as absurd. The highlight of this set (and possibly the evening) was the band's retelling of Fleetwood Mac's "Storms." Performed with two sparse guitars and no percussion, the arrangement gave Cosentino a chance to exhibit her vocal talents, demonstrating both a strong, full voice when required, and admirable control and nuance during the quieter passages Although hinted at during "Mean Girls" earlier in the first set, this is where Cosentino got a chance to shine. Of course the night ended with "Boyfriend," the band's 2010 breakout hit – a song that is both "pleasant" and "nice" in the best possible ways.