Words by Tim Anderl | Beach Slang photo by Jeremy Ward
October 20, 2016 at Southgate House Revival – Newport, Kentucky
October 24, 2016 at Rumba Café – Columbus, Ohio
When Beach Slang scheduled its fall run in support of the Polyvinyl release of their sophomore LP, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, it was expected to be a full-band run, but with the dismissal of guitarist Ruben Gallego days before the tour’s kickoff, it quickly became a one man show…sort of. Although Slang’s frontman James Alex performed most of his sets at Newport, Kentucky’s Southgate House Revival and Columbus, Ohio’s Rumba Café solo, and armed with an electric guitar, the big hearted songwriter made it clear to the crowd that they would dictate the direction of the set.
Kicking off the set with new barnburner “Atom Bomb,” the performance quickly evolved into a production where the fourth wall was removed and access to the setlist, and at a few points, the microphone, bass guitar and drum kit, was open for invitation. At SGHR, a roomy old church sanctuary with vaulted ceilings, stained glass and surprisingly decent acoustics, Alex entertained requests for three different Replacements covers (including “Alex Chilton” and “Can’t Hardly Wait”), delivered a true-to-original-form cover of The Pixies “Where Is My Mind?” and blew the dust and doors off of two Jawbreaker classics, including Bivouac’s “Chesterfield King,” which were fitting given Beach Slang’s uncanny ability to seamlessly blend into any collection containing Pleased To Meet Me, Doolittle, Forever Now, 24-Hour Revenge Therapy and the like.
At both outings, James treated Slang fans with favorites from across the band’s catalog, including material from both of the band’s early EPs, freshman LP, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, and the most recent LP. Fans responded in kind, singing nearly every word. At SGH, James was joined onstage by Beach Slang bassist Ed McNulty and merch woman Charlie Lowe to perform one of the band’s hits.
If I were to register a complaint about the Cincinnati performance, it would be that the height of the stage made the affair seem less intimate than it could have…then again, no one really seemed to notice.
The second performance at Columbus’ Rumba was an even more incredible and intimate evening. The small, couple-hundred-person-capacity room was darker, the stage was lower, and the sound system made each act on the bill sound pristine. Following much of the same format of the Newport show, Alex again allowed fans to dictate much of the setlist, playing songs as they were called out, and bantering directly with them, including one attendee that accused him of being “Bob Pollard drunk” during their previous trip to Columbus. To that, Alex answered with a spot-on cover of Guided By Voices’ “Game of Pricks.” Additionally, he added an Oasis cover (“Wonderwall”), The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” and was joined by Lowe for a duet of Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Sometimes Always,” which was abandoned when Lowe’s stage fright caused her to draw a blank on the lyrics (ironically, she’d written the male lyrics down for Alex).
Crowd participation was at a high during the performance. For instance, when Bleached drummer and McNulty joined Alex on stage for a song, he mentioned that the drummer’s mom was in the crowd, which quickly escalated into a chant of the drummer’s mom’s name. Additionally, when James played The Replacement’s “Bastards of Young” he was joined again by the drummer and bassist, Lowe and The 1984 Draft vocalist Joe Anderl.
The tour also included performances from Bleached (who co-headlined the tour and was top-billed for the Columbus date), and Los Angeles’ Hunny. Though different in aesthetic and sound, both acts were high-energy, focused and fun bands. While Bleached brought their edgy, rock and roll, play your guitar with your teeth (which the guitarist did), Joan Jett inspired energy to the stage, Hunny provided a synthy, dance-driven ‘80s new-wave-meets-‘00s-indie vibe that nodded to everyone from early Cure to The Killers.
It’s hard to imagine that critics or fans attending either of these nights would have anything but praises to sing, and love letters to write to all three bands.