Bethany Cosentino

Indie rockers Bethany Cosentino, Bobb Bruno and their band brought some of the “best coast” to Texas on Friday.

Cosentino, Bruno and the rest of the band, all of whom are from Los Angeles, took the South By Southwest Public Radio Day Stage at 3 p.m. to play music off their latest album California Nights. The album is set to release May 5.  

Best coast has been making beach rock its priority since 2009. Their unparalleled and authentic commitment to the genre is apparent in the California Nights tracks “Heaven Sent” and “California Nights.”

The set’s second song, “Heaven Sent,” follows a pretty traditional rock sound with heavy guitar, quick drums and semi-screeching vocals.

The third song they played was their first album’s title track, “Crazy for You.” The song did a good job showcasing Cosentino’s girlish vocals and the band’s bouncy, psychedelic rock.

The absence of a drumbeat during half of “California Nights” slowed the set down. In this somber ode to Californian love, the single’s lyrics play to the weed-centric beach rock genre.

It seemed to be a theme to play the title tracks off three of the band’s four albums. The second album’s titular track, “The Only Place,” was a short-but-sweet number that got heads bobbing.

The last song of the set is the band’s most popular single — “Boyfriend.” A track off the 2010 album Crazy For You, the song is about the trials and tribulations of unrequited love. The universal nature of the song combined with the catchy chorus line, “I wish he was my boyfriend,” make the song perfect song to belt in your car.

The band’s SXSW stop took place at the beginning of their 2015 North American tour, which started in February and continues through the end of June.

In the past three years, Bethany Cosentino, the beloved singer/songwriter/guitarist behind Best Coast, has become a style icon for a generation of millennials and slackers still obsessed with ’90s nostalgia. She became popular by writing direct and catchy surf-rock about boys and heartbreak that had a vintage feel with roots in ’60s girl-group pop. In the years since her breakout, she has steadily moved toward more slickly produced pop-rock that is still catchy, but is less interesting. On her newest mini-album, Fade Away, released on her own label, Jewel City, Cosentino’s music reaches the culmination of those two things with her most sharply produced, yet forgettable, release to date.

The fact that Fade Away is labeled as a mini-album is slightly misleading, yet also telling of where Best Coast is as a musical project these days. Featuring only seven songs and clocking in at almost 26 minutes, Fade Away is a mini-album, or EP, by definition. But Crazy for You, the band’s warmly received debut album, only lasted about 29 minutes including a bonus track. The short run time and basic production of that first album is part of what made it so great. 

Now that Best Coast splits the difference between No Doubt and Fleetwood Mac, the band’s music is a little more predictable and boring. This new direction doesn’t come as a surprise, as Best Coast contributed a faithful cover of “Rhiannon” to a Fleetwood Mac tribute album last year.

On one hand, more complex songs like “Fear of My Identity” and “Who Have I Become” show Cosentino’s growth as a songwriter, as there are only so many times you can rhyme “crazy” and “lazy” as she did on her first album. On the other hand, mid-tempo ballads like the title track show how much of her individuality Cosentino traded in on this new release. The songs are at their best when they are more upbeat and direct as on “This Lonely Morning” or when Cosentino writes solid hooks in tracks like “I Don’t Know How.” The latter song finds Best Coast embracing the more country-fused aspect of Fleetwood Mac for two minutes before she kicks up the tempo and sings catchy hooks that soar over everything that came before on the record. 

When Cosentino fully jumps into the deep end of aping her influences and trying to be a pop star, she does a pretty good job. But the album as a whole finds her skirting the line between that and her older material. While the lowered stakes of a mini-album are a way for her to try out new ideas, they mostly don’t stick. Given how derivative they are, listeners may begin to wonder if Cosentino is running out of fresh ideas. 

There were UT and high school students, concert veterans and children throwing rock horns from parents’ shoulders, head-banging metal heads and swaying dream-pop dancers. A wide assortment of people from the Austin community filled Waterloo Park for Fun Fun Fun Fest over the weekend.

Although rising ticket prices were a concern, Fun Fun Fun Fest remains the most affordable and most local of “The Big Three,” which includes Austin City Limits Music Festival and South By Southwest. The festival also has a personality of its own with a high-quality lineup of independent bands, hip-hop and electronic artists and the black stage where many of the punk, hard rock and metal bands play.

“Weird Al” Yankovic kicked off the two-day, three-night festival with a party Friday night. On Saturday, Os Mutantes took the audience to a mythical land of Portugese-speaking gypsies. Tim Kinsella of Cap’n Jazz blasted musical lines through a French horn, though he held it like a war horn, and leaped into the crowd. Delorean, a dreamy dance band from Barcelona, made an evening in November feel like a smooth, summertime evening again.

GWAR didn’t disappoint in the theatrics, performing in monster costumes of their stage personas, making political digs, disemboweling a Sarah Palin figure, spraying the crowd with fake blood and singing about beastiality.

MGMT, RJD2 and Bad Religion ended the night with psychedelic indie rock crooning, electro-hip-hop and punk rock nostalgia — a fine representation of the festival’s character.
Sunday began with local band Mother Falcon. With between 10 to 20 members on guitar, orchestra instruments and accordion, Mother Falcon presents a different show each time depending on which members play.

During the evening, Best Coast brought their California charm. Their songs — short, sweet and straightforward — could cause anyone to reminisce about a summer fling, first love or high school crush. Front woman Bethany Cosentino won trinkets of adoration from the audience, namely a cigarette, a lighter and a pair of sunglasses to replace her own pair that she tossed in the crowd.

As Best Coast was ending, hip-hop artist P.O.S. had the audience’s hands raised in the air and waving to the beats. An energetic and down-to-earth performer, the man knows how to talk to an audience. He even stepped down in the area between the stage and the barricade to get on their level. P.O.S. also puts an interesting twist to hip-hop, rapping to rock melodies.

Later on the same stage, French band Yelle sparked a frenetic dance party. Even if the majority of the audience didn’t understand French, her electrifying stage presence made up for it. “We are in a jungle and you are the monkey,” she said in English as the audience echoed her monkey sounds. Monkeys never sounded so musical.
The Descendents, A-Trak and Mastodon wrapped up the finale of Fun Fun Fun Fest, each bringing their different styles to the table.

Fun Fun Fun Fest gives Austin another brag-worthy festival that boasts of varied genres, rising talent and a very local vibe. Until next November.