Saturday night, the "Summer is Forever II" tour brought Best Coast and Wavves to the Joy Theater. Neither band brought the summer, but each delivered something specific.

best coast photo by patrick ainsworth for my spilt milk
Bethany Consentino of Best Coast at the Joy, by Patrick Ainsworth

Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino’s songs occupy a very specific emotional and geographic space. The band’s name and surf pop sound evoke California, and she sings about a life in California that doesn’t live up to its promise but doesn’t suck either. She’s not bemoaning her beautiful trap as The Eagles did in “Hotel California,” nor does she sound angry and ripped off by what of the state’s legacy was left to her. Instead, Consentino’s lyrical life is defined by ambivalence and uncertainty. Even the lead track from last year’s California Nights, “Feeling OK,” sounds provisionally upbeat. She sings that love has her feeling that way, but on the lyric sheet, the difference between feeling okay and battling depression isn’t obvious. 

Her voice and the band’s sound makes the distinction clearer. When Best Coast and Wavves played the Joy Theater Saturday night, she sounded too resilient to give in, nor has she lost herself in the process. As a result, Best Coast’s set was generally more buoyant than the lyrics might suggest, and when Bobb Bruno’s guitar finally got some prominence in the mix, they were genuinely powerful.  

Wavves and Best Coast tour together because both rep California, and Consentino and Wavves’ Nathan Williams have been a couple for years. Wavves headlined because of the band’s punk energy, and maybe it’s actually more popular. It certainly was with the younger part of the all-ages crowd, and like Best Coast, it does a very specific thing. On last year’s V, the songs share some of Best Coast’s pop sense, but live Williams’ punk walks a fine line. The melody is no longer as pronounced—it was no Green Day—but Wavves were never simply energy either. You could intuit the sense of humor evident in Wavves’ songs from the show, but once the songs started, it disappeared in the musical churn. Not a bad thing, but after a while, the show became simply churn.

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best coast by patrick ainsworth Best Coast at the Joy, by Patrick Ainsworth

wavves photo by patrick ainsworth Nathan Williams of Wavves at the Joy, by Patrick Ainsworth

wavves photo by patrick ainsworth Wavves, by Patrick Ainsworth