The vintage starburst lights were tinted red and Bottom of the Hill was packed with hipsters toting hand-me-down apparel: ratty old sweaters, torn hats and grandma’s old prescription glasses. Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino let out the first words to “When I’m With You,” and the crowd anxiously listened to each note echo through the mic, paired with her slow, distorted guitar strums.
I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else in the room felt like we had just stepped into a time machine and shot straight back to a 1960’s dive bar on the beach. A little bit Beach Boys and part Ronnettes, the antique sounds were innocent and as gold as Cosentino’s sandy locks.
The L.A. duo was so calm, Cosentino strumming and singing with her pink lips parted as wide as a Charlie Brown caroler. “Love, of Love” she cried in perfect harmony, closing her eyes and showing her light brown eye shadow. Guitarist Bobby Bruno was a true shoegazer, his long black hair hanging over his strings and glowing with shades of pink from the stage lights above.
Playing through their EP Something in the Way (RCRD LBL), they made each song float over the crowd in waves, heads and bodies bobbing up and down like buoys in a tide. This show was Best Coast’s first in San Francisco and Cosentino said she was a little worried that people wouldn’t show up until after 10, thereby missing a part of their set.
“Did anybody watch Lost?,” she asked the crowd. “We were joking that people wouldn’t come in until after the show, but you guys are troopers -- here, right at the beginning.”
Ali Koehler of Vivian Girls (who had earlier shared their iPod playlists with me) stepped in as the drummer for Best Coast’s set and the trio played two new songs, both of which were more upbeat, with lots of cymbal action and heavy bass drum solos. Cosentino promised we would find them on the new album soon. At the end of the set, Bruno threw on a black sweatshirt, complete with cat ears affixed to the hood.
Vivian Girls took over at 10:45, hitting it hard and urging the crowd for a little more action. “You guys should dance more,” bassist Kickball Katy said with a grin, the same of which stayed glued to her face throughout the entirety of their show. The crowd happily responded with a small, male mosh pit in front of the stage.
Cassie Romone’s lips were bright red to match her red blouse, skirt and the carpet on the stage. Mid-show Koehler approached the mic and pointed out her and Romone’s nearly identical ruffly, red shirts. Apparently this happens a lot.
Costentino joined the trio of Brooklyn ladies for a song, creating a stage billowing with womanpower. Totally normal girls rockin’ hard, Vivian Girls put out some stellar garage songs for the packed house, but my absolute favorite was their A cappella rendition of “He’s Gone”, which they dedicated to the opening band, “The bananas.” Their voices quietly squeaked and peaked, totally exposed in a not-so-perfect harmony but all together delivered an incredible gem that only live shows like that can offer.