Kiwi Pop Outfit
Wows At The Beachland
March 6th, 2019
I read an article not too long ago that said most people stop listening and, I guess, liking any new music once they reach the age of 28. I suppose that's fairly accurate; I'm a child of the seventies and eighties, which puts me squarely into the "get off my lawn" demographic (but we have the most high-end purchasing power, so there), and I have to admit that I think most new music sucks. I try to listen to it. I really do. But, I'm not a fan of the over-produced, slickly put together, auto-tuned mush that's oozing out of both Nashville and L.A.
So, imagine my surprise when, on a whim, I picked up the freshman effort Future Me Hates Me, from New Zealand Power Pop outfit The Beths. I was mesmerized by the album's cover art. Don't know why, because there was nothing especially unique about it, but it drew me in like a tractor beam to the Death Star. A collection of infectious pop ditties, the album was sprinkled with a little bit of Millennial angst, song titles more in line with an Edgar Allen Poe novel, and an upbeat, head bobbing beat that makes it great get-in-your-car-and-drive music.
I must've listened to the album ten or twelve times before I moved on to the next disc sitting on my car's passenger seat. Realizing what a pretentious piece of crap that replacement album was I went back to The Beths' first full-length record (they released an EP in 2016).
Happily, I noticed that they were coming to the 216. This is one show that I had to cover. Touring with Minneapolis-bred Bad Bad Hats, the Kiwi outfit played to a very enthusiastic crowd at Waterloo's Beachland Ballroom and Tavern last night.
But first, taking the stage at eightish was local band Village Bicycle. The foursome played a spirited thirty-minute set; their jazzy mix of rock, blues and Americana was better than most openers should be. Keep an eye on these folks, I think they're going places.
Bad Bad Hats
Pop trio Bad Bad Hats came on next. Frontwoman Kerry Alexander connected with the audience with a decidedly-Midwestern style of Garrison Keillor witticisms and sweet-sour innocent banter. Their forty-five minute set was a great way to tee up the headliners. A highlight of their set was a tune called "Wide Right," about a love affair that couldn't quite make it, just like the Buffalo Bills' kicker in Super Bowl XXV. "It's a metaphor," said Alexander, with a wink and a wide-eyed droll smile.
Starting at 10:00, The Beths took the stage. Original drummer Ivan Luketina-Johnston left the band in 2018, leaving the percussion spot open to a touring replacement. Frontwoman/guitarist Elizabeth Stokes was backed up by Jonathan Pearce on lead guitar and Ben Sinclair on bass. The distinctive harmonies are what give this quartet their oomph; while Stokes may take lead (with her equally ethereal as well as tight vocals), it's the vocal blend that really makes tunes like "Little Death" and "Happy Unhappy" work so well.
Plugging through a thirteen tune set, the band played for little more than an hour. The smallish ballroom at the Beachland was packed with folks eager to hear the next song: The band, of course, didn't disappoint. They played the album in its entirety, however not in the order from the album. The crowd really ate up the eleven-tune set and then went nuts when they returned to the stage for their encores "Future Me Hates Me" and "Uptown Girl." I don't know if I've ever seen or heard a more enthusiastic audience at the Beachland.
Grateful for the support, Stokes mentioned that this was their first time playing the "big stage" here in Cleveland. Not a stranger to the Beachland, they've played here a few times in the past, they said they're looking forward to returning.
This is one outfit that I'll be keeping my fiftysomething year old eyes on.
Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley