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Beach Fossils @ The Echoplex

  • By BC Gibson Author Avatar
  • 19 May 2013

Beach Fossils @ The Echoplex

     This show greatly exceeded my expectations.  I’d gone in expecting less, because I had seen Beach Fossils once before, and had not been impressed with their performance.  I was willing to chance, however, that their poor showing several years ago was due to an unfortunate circumstance particular to that evening.  Beach Fossils was the opener that night in July, 2010, playing at the Troubadour before Here We Go Magic.  During that show, singer Dustin Payseur had told the crowd that the band’s guitarist had quit just prior to the start of that tour, remarking on several occasions that their former guitarist had “totally fucked us”.  I can’t remember if he directly attributed that as his justification for a poor showing, but it was certainly implied.  
     In any event, I was willing to give them another try, buying tickets to see them again in the hopes that their performance would have improved.  I also wanted to go because it was a Coachella weekend.  Since I wasn’t going to be in the desert, I felt I should at least see one show in town, so that I wouldn’t feel totally out of touch.  Not that I would claim to be in touch in the first place, but I guess I like to pretend, if only to myself.  
     Beach Fossils’ music, the earlier releases especially, encapsulate in sound of a sun-drenched afternoon on Venice Beach, where I live.  The consummation of this is their song “Time”, released in December, 2009, (available for download).  Generally, Dustin Paysuer is not a great lyricist, but the words to this song are faultless in their simplicity.  “How long should I be here? / I don’t know / How long will you be near? / You don’t know.”  That is just the sort of ambivalence that is rampant where I live; you can almost taste it when you walk outside, as if it’s being carried along on a warm breeze.  Reminds me of another song that captures the feel of Venice Beach, by a much better lyricist: here, “Every day is like Sunday”.
     But while their recordings are the soundtrack for a suntan, Beach Fossils’ live shows are nightclub-stomp material.  Really, I can think of few artists whose live shows present such a contrast in temperament from that found on their recordings.  Songs like, “Youth” or “Golden Age” which on the record clock in at around 80 BPM, are played in double-time live, coming in at around 160 BPM.  
     This is the general pattern for Beach Fossils’ shows, and their audiences seem to appreciate it.  Asked to comment on the liveliness of their crowds, Paysuer states, “Yeah, yeah, that’s pretty much how it’s been from the beginning. Our live shows are always more energetic. …We feed off each other’s energy and feed off the crowd’s energy and that’s just become a thing that’s part of the band now…I don’t know. I guess, we have a reputation of shows like that, through touring…“. 
From the way he says that, it almost seems as if he’s not sure how it happened, like he’s surprised that their shows turned out that way.  Maybe he turned up to play a gig one day, expecting the crowd to be chill-axed; but then the crowd went nuts and that became a thing, a part of the band.  I wasn’t aware of a thing, so the energy of the audience was a surprise to me as well.  Frankly, I was expecting more of a Beach House crowd.
     The tempo contrast was evident at the first song, when Paysuer immediately launched himself into the audience.  Apparently he does this at every show, which is commendable showmanship in my book.  I’m sure it doesn’t always work out; surely the waters have parted before and he’s wound up on the floor.  And he wasn’t caught cleanly by the Echoplex crowd, but he kept singing so someone must have broken his fall.  When he jumped back onstage he tripped over the mic chord, and there was a momentary hiccup in the lyrics before Paysuer regained his footing and his voice.  When the song was over, Paysuer did the verbal equivalent of his head first dive, energizing the LA crowd in the most effective possible way: by flattering them.  Flattery goes over big in this town.  I’m sure you can imagine why, so I won’t go into it.  I personally don’t count myself above such vanity; I live at the fair too, and I like my flattery as much as the next guy, who is probably an actor.  Paysuer told the crowd that “LA is always the best show on the tour.”  Cast in a positive light, the crowd would not disappoint. 
     The first song was “Clash the Truth”, the opener from their recent LP of that title.  On this latest release, their recordings have caught up with the pace of their live shows.  Their latest album is predominantly in double-time; Beach Fossils seem to have fully adopted their live style. “Generational Synthetic“, the second song from their newest release followed.   
     By this point the audience was ravenous; a rushing push towards the stage followed by a retraction; two steps forward and one back, then forward again.  At times I became separated from my concert companion.  At one point we were standing next to each other, when a tiny girl squeezed by us, dragging her bewildered looking boyfriend by the hand.  The girl didn’t get farther than directly in front of my left leg, while her boyfriend was left huddled directly in back of my left leg.  When the song was over I got the attention of my friend, and I yelled to her, “So this is what’s up: we’ve switched dates!” I pointed to the girl backing into me, “I’m with this chick now” and then at the guy “…and you’re with this dude.”  My friend thought it was very funny, while the dude gave me a look that seemed to say that he wasn’t unhappy about the idea of an exchange.  It wasn’t on though, because the couple soon became lost in the pulsating crowd.  
     Beach Fossils played a long-ish set, giving equal billing--and equal cadence--to their older and newer material.  “Daydream” became a fast paced reality, while “Careless” went from afternoon lethargy to nighttime exuberance.    
     “Careless” was the last song of the main set, and when Paysuer came back for the encore, he directed the crowd to “go nuts”.  The crowd readily obliged, and for the two songs of the encore, “Crashed Out” and “Twelve Roses” an aggressive style mosh formed, with guys running into each other like it was a Rancid show.  Similarly, I’d seen Iceage at the Echoplex a few weeks before, and if you had told me before both shows that that Beach Fossils would have the more raucous crowd, I would have probably laughed.  
     When it was over I was drenched in sweat, and feeling dazed until I stepped out into the cool night air.  Clearly, Beach Fossils had come a long way since I last saw them.  Paysuer and Co. have definitely learned how to put on a good live show.  Either that or they have figured out how to attract the right people to their shows.  As Pasyuer says, “I love it when people are fucking hanging from the lights and just doing shit.  It makes it a fun experience.”  He is certainly right, because Beach Fossils have the “fun experience” part totally nailed.