The Smell - February 6, 2010
Live Review by Adam McKibbin
Few alleyways in America could possibly be more entertaining than Harlem Place in downtown L.A. on a Saturday night. On one end, swanky guys and dolls wait behind velvet ropes for a chance to eventually enter the historic Edison lounge, one of the cornerstones of the ongoing rebirth of downtown. At the other, skinny hipsters mill around in non-orderly fashion outside the famed Smell, which – as an all-ages, community-minded haunt that helped launch No Age and LA’s noise-rock scene – has been just as important to the renaissance in its own way. The groups could hardly be more diametrically opposed, even though they each have their own uniforms and insider-speak – and even though there are assuredly a few double-agents who run with both crowds.
On this evening, there was buzz at both ends of the alley. At one, a few tuxedoed gentlemen spoke in reverential tones about a man inside: Omar, “at one point, the most famous male model in the world.” At the other, a young crowd awaited the appearance of one of the blogosphere’s more beloved bands of the past few years, NYC’s Vivian Girls. Underestimating the band’s popularity, latecomers hoped to take advantage of The Smell’s reputation for cheap tickets available at the door; alas, a colorful sign informed them that the gig was totally sold out.
But if Vivian Girls captured the buzz of yesterday and today, the buzz of tomorrow may very well belong to Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino. That very weekend, she appeared in an LA Times article titled “Queens of L.A.’s lo-fi scene,” alongside Dum Dum Girls, Nite Jewel and Pearl Harbor. Best Coast hasn’t even put out a full-length yet – that’s coming later this year – but her singles have been increasingly attention-grabbing. That was something that was readily apparent during her impressive opening set; her material is getting better and better. There isn’t a ton of stage presence to her set, but the songs stand on their own; even buried in reverb and The Smell’s sweaty basement style of acoustics and ambience, there’s just denying Cosentino’s considerable gift with a songwriting hook.
And the secret is out. Granted, Best Coast is local while Vivian Girls are New Yorkers, and BC didn’t take the stage until 10:45ish, but it was still somewhat remarkable that the crowd actually thinned out before the headliner’s set. That’s never a great way to start a show – especially since the slow exodus seemed to continue after every song – and there were some other signs that it was going to be a somewhat star-crossed night for Vivian Girls: they were disrupted by numerous technical difficulties, and the sound guy never figured out how to include Kickball Katy in the vocal mix, which all but negated the band’s harmonies. They still managed a high-energy, good-natured set – and the punked-up sloppiness is of course something that some find charming – and there were some fans going absolutely bonkers for them, moshing and stage diving and the works.
In the end, anyone who came hoping to find a Next Big Thing shouldn’t have gone home disappointed – but may have been surprised by which band won the distinction. It was Best Coast’s night. It could be Best Coast’s year. If that turns out to be the case, hopefully Cosentino can enjoy the ride. As Omar the Male Supermodel surely once learned – and as Vivian Girls may be learning now – your moment just can’t last forever, no matter which end of Harlem Place you call home.
Best Coast - Interview
More by this writer:
Giant Drag - Live - May 16, 2009
Fever Ray - Interview
The Thermals - Interview
Leonard Cohen - Live - April 11, 2009