Thursday, November 03, 2016

Concert Review: Beach Slang, Bleached, Hunny at 89th Street Collective

Artists:  Beach Slang (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, BandCamp, Limited Run), Bleached (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, BandCamp, Wikipedia), Hunny (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TumblrSoundCloud)
Venue:  89th Street Collective (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
Date:  11/2/2016

Last night was the first time Beach Slang took the stage in Oklahoma when they played at 89th Street Collective with Bleached and Hunny.  This was my first trip to 8911 N Western Ave since it changed from The Conservatory and man is it different.  I have been attending shows at this location going back to sometime in 1999 or so when it was called The Green Door.  At the time it was the place to see punk rock in the Oklahoma City metro area and brought in bands ranging from The Forgotten to The Eyeliners to ALL to Voodoo Glow Skulls.  The area by the stage had a fantastic black and white checkerboard floor, there were pool tables, and a jukebox.  After a few years The Green Door moved to a new location in Bricktown and the fine folks at Size Records (which was in the building next door) took over operations and rechristened the venue The Conservatory.  In 2015 it was announced that both Size Records and The Conservatory were closing up shop but that the venue would live on under new ownership and was thus renamed 89th Street Collective.  Long gone is the great checkered floor and pool tables; now the stage has been moved, thus completely changing the dynamics of the room.  The best thing to come from the new ownership was the fact that the show started and ended at reasonable times.  For years it wasn't uncommon for the doors to open at 8:00 PM but the first band wouldn't take the stage until after 10.  Last night I arrived about 8:05 PM and the first band was already on the stage.  In fact I was home (after a 30 minute drive) by 11:45 which is great for a middle aged dad that has to get up at 5:30 AM to get ready for work and his kids off to school.  The bathroom also had soap and paper towels, so that was awesome.

The show opened with the southern California synth rock band Hunny.  They played a strong set of The Cure meets Future Islands styled post punk that the mostly younger crowd really enjoyed.  After their set I got the non-musical highlight of night when I met Beach Slang's James Alex.  We talked music and touring, the band's changing lineup, and the Dave Kendall era of MTV's 120 Minutes.  Alex is an incredibly kind and humble man and was an absolute joy to talk to, which made me like his band that much more (if that was even possible).  Los Angeles, CA's Bleached took the stage to the delight of the crowd and cranked out a raucous set that included two Misfits covers (my favorite being "Hybrid Moments").  Lead singer/guitarist Jennifer Clavin bounced around the stage with tremendous energy and glee while guitarist Jessica Clavin churned out sludgy, grungy licks and bassist Micayla Grace thundered on the four string.  At their core, Bleached plays '60s style doowop rock'n' roll turned up to 11.  In other words, imagine the Ronettes played through the lens of The Go-Go's and Dinosaur Jr.  Bleached commanded the attention of the crowd, so much so that a large number of them were in line at the band's merch table immediately following their set.

After a very quick equipment change on the stage, Beach Slang took the stage.  Due to some issues with the band's lineup, this tour because what is often called Quiet Slang which is essentially James Alex solo.  Alex took the stage armed with his guitar and a beer and jumped right in to "Atom Bomb" from the band's latest album A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings (this happened so quickly that a third of the people in the building were still in line at Bleached's table).  In the middle of the third song, a beautifully haunting rendition of "Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas" played as a ballad (seriously this version of the song needs to be recorded and made available because it took my breath away), the power went out.  After a few moments of uncertainty and the power coming back on momentarily before finally going off for good, Alex got out his acoustic guitar and finished the song, picking right up where he left off.  During the confusion a guy to my right yelled out "you sound great, we love you" perfectly setting the mood for the rest of the night.  The only light in the building came from emergency lights on exit signs and in the dark the crowd moved closer to the stage and fell silent.  Alex poured through an awe inspiring set of Beach Slang classics, taking requests from the crowd, and playing the obligatory but joyously loved Replacements covers.  To celebrate the birthday of Hunny's keyboardist Kevin's birthday, Alex poured out a moving rendition of Oasis' "Wonderwall" during which the crowd responded with vocal harmonies, making him stop mid-song to laugh in great appreciation before finishing the song.  The audience was all in, singing along to every song and hanging on Alex's every word.  The night drew to a close with a tremendous version of The Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait" into another haunting ballad rendition of a rocker, this time in "Future Mixtape for the Art Kids."  A fantastic song to begin with, "Future Mixtape..." took on an entirely new vibe that brought even more power and emotion to the already inspirational lyrics (this one too needs to be recorded in this slower arrangement, preferably on the acoustic guitar).  Before the end Alex said that he would remember this night for as long as he lived.  He won't be the only one.  This night was a once in a lifetime moment with a performance that turned a room full of loyal fans into lifelong, diehard members of the Beach Slang army.  This sentiment is summed up perfectly in a line from the closing song of the night "Punk or Lust" -- "They kicked our teeth, called us freaks, you're not alone."  No James, we're not alone.  We're not alone because we have you.  You give us a voice through your own a home in your music, and a hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.  I cannot thank you enough for this night or this music.  Some people find God or salvation in the words of sacred texts or in church.  I found salvation in rock 'n' roll through prophets like James Alex and bands like Beach Slang.  Hallelujah!  

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