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Friday, June 27, 2014

Best Coast @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest

June 26, 2014

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Summer hasn’t been what it should be in Milwaukee. Sweltering days and sunshine have been replaced by a seemingly endless bank of eerie fog that has taken over the lakefront. California’s Best Coast are used to somewhat balmier climes, and that may have thrown them off a bit as they were forced to adjust to our reality.

Their set at Summerfest Thursday took some time to hit full swing, due likely in part to both the weather and the disappointingly small crowd. The music delivered on the comparisons to sunshine mentioned by nearly every reviewer, remaining consistently upbeat and infectious and permeated the space with a glow of warmth and happiness, but the crowd, and even the band, seemed somewhat removed from the scene. Songs like “The Only Place” and opener “This Lonely Morning” sounded on point, but were played with workmanlike monotony.

Listening to a whole concert makes it clear how much almost every Best Coast song sounds like almost every other Best Coast song—not necessarily a bad thing, given that their sound is distinct enough to separate them from other bands. Lead singer Bethany Cosentino wraps plaintive vocals in layers of reverb, while guitarist Bobb Bruno adds fluid guitar licks over propulsive rhythm guitar strumming. On the whole, the music has a driving energy and an earnest appeal that holds up in concert, helped by Cosentino’s disarming stage banter, which encompassed such topics as her short stature and her longing for a pair of sweatpants.

The second half of the show saw a noticeable increase in energy, as the band removed jackets and sweatshirts and brought a new sense of enthusiasm to the music. The crowd, grown somewhat by this point, began to move more willingly to songs such as the simple yet charming “Boyfriend.” The last few songs displayed the liveliness that Best Coast brings to their songs in the studio, and was much more engaging for it. Maybe they just needed a bit longer to warm up.