BEACH SLANG + DAVE HAUSE & THE MERMAID + SEE THROUGH DRESSES @ THE ECHOPLEX
Photos by Danny Hernandez Words by Madison Desler
“We are here to punch you in your big, beautiful hearts, Los Angeles,” Beach Slang frontman James Alex shouted at an ardent crowd. It’s the way the band kicks off every show—an appeal to the dual nature of the outsider music that they play. Over a series of EPs and two beloved full-length albums, including 2017’s Here I Made This For You: Volume 2, Beach Slang have harnessed the power-chord aggression of punk-rock and the unbridled emotion and self-reflection of emo-pop to create music that makes heads bang and hearts brim—while making fans feel like family.
Taking the stage in his usual uniform of gaudy ruffled shirt, velvet jacket, and bowtie that make him look like he’s about to head to prom circa 1978, Alex led the band through “Wasted Daze Of Youth” and part of “Bad Art And Weirdo Ideas” before waving them to a stop. “We got all our gear stolen a few days ago, we don’t know what we’re doing,” he explained as he fiddled with his guitar. “Where’s the loud button?” he joked. “Just push that.” The glitch was a mere hiccup in a monstrous set. As a rock band, they’re everything you want—loud, tight, and engaged, burning through songs like “Noisy Heaven” and “Punks In A Disco Bar” at a pace that even surprised them as they rolled into the home stretch before 11:00pm.
With a voice that’s somehow smooth and gritty at the same time, and a mop of hair that he bangs around, Alex is a winning frontman, goofing around to the endlessly goofable “Smooth feat. Rob Thomas” by Santana, and emanating an earnest warmth toward the crowd that was shouting back every word to him. At times, it comes off a bit cheesy and heavy-handed (“I hope love never becomes a dirty word, man” and “When people say I love you, they’re usually posturing. When I say it, I mean it” just two of the moments that felt a little sugary), but in general, it’s refreshing to see an indie musician so unconcerned with being cool.
With multiple references to rebels, outcasts, and the same type of “Hard Luck Kid” that has made Kerouac novels and John Hughes movies signatures of teen angst for decades. The sticking point is, Alex isn’t a teenager—he’s well past it—but his pure love for the music allows us to look the other way as he sings about loud radios and beating hearts for the hundredth time. He rocked out to a covers of Jawbreaker’s “Boxcar” and Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” as if he was playing air guitar in his poster-covered bedroom, and paid homage to the New York Dolls’ iconic twist on teen classic “Give Him A Great Big Kiss,” shouting out “When I say I’m in debt, you best believe I’m in debt, d-e-t,” before launching into “Spin The Dial.”
Alex and his band are genuine in their songwriting, in their mission, and in their live chops, making them the sophisticated, Replacements-flavored choice for an aging crew of Vans Warped Tour die-hards that still have left-over feelings. “Thanks for hangin’ around, that’s really sweet of you,” Alex said when they returned to the stage for an encore, before launching into “Too Late To Die Young.” “There’s honesty in these neon lights/We’re animals, drunk and alive” he sang, the audience joining in, “I swear, right now I’m alright.”