Chicago – If you live in Chicago, chances are you’ve at least once made the trek out to Highland Park, through the suburban enclaves of the uber wealthy, to check out a show at the beautiful Ravinia Festival. The outdoor venue has become a staple for summer concerts, though it usually tends to attract a much older crowd. Imagine my surprise then at hearing L.A. band Best Coast would be performing on a Friday night, as the duo, turned touring five-piece, was opening in support of The Go-Go’s Farewell Tour.
Across the green surrounding the pavilion, picnics were a plenty. People were grilling and popping bottles. The sun began to set as Bethany Cosentino (guitar, vocals, Bobb Bruno (lead guitar), Brady Miller (drums), Brett Mielke (bass, backing vocals), and Joe Bautista (guitar, keyboards) took the stage. Though, the lack of sunlight didn’t quell the humidity much.
Best Coast ripped into “When I’m With You,” from the band’s 2010 debut album Crazy For You. Cosentino sang, with a husky voice, “The world is lazy / but you and me / we’re just crazy / So when I’m with you, I have fun.” Later she would confess she was rather under the weather, with the irony coming on thick with “Feeling Ok.” It must be noted that despite her sickness, Cosentino sang her heart out, and the raspiness added an extra layer to songs like “Crazy For You” and “The Only Place.” A few songs in, Cosentino smiled and said of the Ravinia show, “I like it. It smells like burgers. We’re outside. There’s cicadas in the air.”
Wind from a fan blew her hair like a bad 80s movie, which was all the more fitting given she looked like an 80s queen of the night, dressed all in black, with a leather skirt and shimmering gold boots. Though, at times the music was totally bringing back the 90s with grunge inspired tunes, especially when Bruno was caught wailing on guitar, his hair also flying, colored in purples and reds from the stage lights. Cosentino and Bruno started Best Coast back in 2009. The two had known each other from Cosentino’s previous band, Pocahaunted, in which Bruno acted as producer, and after leaving music behind for a bit, Cosentino reached out to Bruno about collaborating yet agin. The two have been making music together ever since.
Best Coast performed the title track from its third and most recent LP California Nights. Cosentino sang, “California nights / Make me feel so happy I could die / But I try to stay alive.” Though, if we’re being honest, this evening she didn’t seem all that happy. It’s a given Illinois’ summer nights have nothing on Cali’s, but combined with her being sick and performing for an older crowd which seemed little receptive to the tunes of Best Coast or Cosentino’s humor, the singer seemed in not the best of moods. Though, I can’t blame her, as opening acts always have it rough, plus having recently co-headlined a tour with Wavves, I’m sure she and the band had gotten used to performing for rowdy teenagers and twenty-somethings who no doubt sang along, danced, and moshed their hearts out nightly. Though, Cosentino has said it’s been great touring with The Go-Go’s – a band she grew up listening to and idolizing.
With Cosentino’s sarcasm between songs seeming to fly over the heads of most in attendance, she introduced the song “Boyfriend” as pure comedy. A few in the know got the joke and laughed. Best Coast’s set ended with “When Will I Change,” and with the lyrics “It’s not that bad / And I have no reason to be sad” being sung, you couldn’t help but feel good, taking in the summer night, with the smell of burgers and flowers intermingling in the breeze, while listening to Best Coast’s glittering guitars mix in with the beat of the cicadas.
Best Coast is on tour now. A list of tour dates can be found on the band’s Facebook page. California Nights is available for purchase on iTunes.
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.