Review: Beach Slang, Knitting Factory, 12/17/15

James Alex

I don’t need another band to be the Replacements for me. That’s easy for me to say, I guess, because I had the actual Replacements when I needed that in my life. So people saying a band is just like the ‘Mats is pretty much guaranteed to make me scuttle off in the other direction, because it’s rarely true, and because I am not looking to relive my youth.

This is why I missed out on Beach Slang until earlier this year, because every other word about them was “Replacements” and that will definitely make me exit stage left. But then they opened for Tommy, and People I Know said, “No, really, you should,” and the coup de grace was actually a YouTube video of “Bastards of Young.” That might seem hypocritical, but it was their chops in being able to play it and the heart in being able to sell it that I needed to see. And then I bought all of the records (okay, I downloaded off of Bandcamp) and the guitar shimmer and the ache in the voice and the unintentional anthems and that sold me, hard, fast, it was love.

The band came through the Knitting Factory last week, the day after Sleater-Kinney played that life-altering gig at the Market Hotel. And I was nervous and I got there early and I got angry at dudes thinking they could stand in front of me. Then the band were onstage and it was sloppy and gorgeous, it was James trying to pull a rockstar move only to slip and fall. It was needing to tune between every song because they hit the strings so hard they went out of tune. The songs are better live, because they are rawer, closer to the bone, closer to that moment that created them, closer to feeling that freight train of energy and emotion.

I didn’t even get angry at the stage divers like I usually do (it’s not 1995) because it was mostly girls and then one got onstage and sang and it was mostly all so sweet and earnest and genuine, even the dudes in the center trying to get a pit started couldn’t generate sufficient angst. It’s not that the crowd wasn’t excited or into it, they just weren’t there to be assholes. That won’t last if Beach Slang gets bigger, but it’s certainly a refreshing change right now.

I turned on the camera when they went into “Bastards of Young,” Periscoping it for friends mostly, and then kept it on through “Can’t Hardly Wait.” And, again, I don’t think they’re the Replacements, although I think that wanting to be the Replacements is part of what makes the band great, what makes the songs great, wanting to be something that meant something, wanting to write songs that filled those missing spots in your soul, those gaps in your heart. Because the show was actually better after the ‘Mats tribute section was done.

They did an amazing cover of “Boxcar” by Jawbreaker and the crowd surfers came out in force, but it was “Kids” from the first Beach Slang record that was the best thing all night, that moment where everything slid into place, locked and loaded, the band, the crowd, the energy, the moment. It was anarchy, it was an arena anthem, it was everything, and you wanted it to last forever.

People Magazine and The New York Times are writing about Beach Slang and I retweeted the Times link with, “Sadly ecstatic that the heroes are news,” probably Townshend’s best line ever, because it could not be more true. They are getting the press because everyone feels the potential. This may be the last time I see them in a club this small. Here’s hoping so.