“I was thinking about the lyrics like, ‘goddamn’ can’t cry cause you gotta sing” (Dustin Payseur). Payseur, the frontman of the Indie rock band, Beach fossils, succinctly encapsulated not only the relaxed, confident mannerisms of the band itself with this statement, but also facilitated rumination on the dichotomy between Beach Fossils’ danceable, hazy productions and frankly depressing lyrics. With Beach Fossils’ lyrical tendency to allude to lost love, disillusionment, and isolation, Payseur wasn’t the only one holding back tears tonight as the band progressed through a vibrant setlist packed with cuts off of 2023’s Bunny to 2011’s What a Pleasure.
Opening the night was San Francisco based Provoker. Pioneering a post-punk inspired and synth heavy sound, frontman Christian Petty captivated the crowd by somersaulting across the stage in between lines, singing his lyrics with an emotional intensity that complemented their fuzz-heavy tracks. Bathed in red light, guitarist Jonathon Lopez launched the band into “Dark Angel,” the title track off their 2018 EP. Electronic drum rhythms paired with Petty’s dark lyricism climaxed during “Blue Sheen”, with Petty jumping into the crowd and transforming the pit into a dancing free for all.
Indie-rock band Turnover followed. “Myself in the Way” featured smooth melodies and a groovy beat, with Nick Rayfield’s guitar licks drenched in heavy chorus and reverb effects. “Dizzy On the Comedown“ off of 2015’s Peripheral Vision was met with cheers from the audience, with the crowd joining lead vocalist Austin Getz to sing the lyrics “Sing along to a song that I know / It goes bah bah bada, sing it over and over / Let it hypnotize you /I’m still here right beside you.”
As Beach Fossils launched into their first track of the night (“Don’t Fade Away” off Bunny), it became immediately apparent that despite their colloquial interactions with the audience and each other, Tommy Davidson [guitar], Anton Hochheim [drums], Jack Doyle Smith [bass], and Dustin Payseur [lead vocals and guitar] took the act of performance seriously. What must have been hours and hours of rehearsal were manifested in an incredibly tight, nearly perfect performance from the band. As an audience member, Beach Fossils’ phenomenal sound came across not just as the product of practice and an admirable Front of House, but also as a reflection of their palpable dedication to their fans, whom they evidently cared enough for to provide a top tier concert experience.
On that note, the setlist did an excellent job balancing the old with the new, with “Don’t Fade Away” succeeded by “Sugar,” a personal favorite off of 2017’s lauded Sumersault. Opening with an expressive, infectious bassline from Smith, synths rapidly took over as the bass mellowed out, creating the dream-like quality pervasive in the band’s work. In all honesty, experiencing “Sugar” was, for me, to be transported back to my high school’s parking lot, a beautifully nostalgic cut that I have never lost my inclination towards.
Up next was 2011’s “What a Pleasure,” which featured the drone of Payseur’s melancholy, soft vocalizations supported by jangly guitar sounds, creating a trance-like sort of effect, which continued into 2012’s “Shallow.”
During “Sleep Apnea,” Payseur ordered the house lights off, and prompted the audience to light up the stage, creating a climate perfectly suited to the deeply melodic, dispirited track. The audience engagement therefore served a dual purpose, with one effect being that of creating ambiance, and the other being that a task somewhat distracted the audience from how depressing the track is. Personally, I’ve had a good cry to “Sleep Apnea,” yet I was so occupied with the balancing act that was holding my phone in a crowd of people, the devastation I anticipated afflicted me only minutely.
Before taking their short-lived departure from the stage, Beach Fossils concluded their main set with an “LA Exclusive:” the lo-fi “Social Jetlag” off Sumersault. All I can say is at that moment I felt lucky to be LA-based, with the effortless track permeated by delicate piano showers, lulling the audience into a stupor.
Returning for an encore, Beach Fossils’ “May 1st” and “Down the Line” were accompanied by brightly flashing lights, manifestations of the electrifying guitar solos that sparked impassioned moshing and crowd surfing to the amusement of the band. A celebration of two of their most popular songs, the encore hit in all the right places, with Pasyeur and Davidson’s dancing guitars creating an energy that took Davidson to his knees. Undoubtedly, seeing these two classics performed live topped any experience I’ve ever had listening to the recorded versions, and I can see myself chasing the high that was the guitars’ grand finale for some time.
Beach Fossils provided an unforgettable concert experience, one which highlighted the precision and talent of every single member while preserving their own spirited, carefree chemistry.
Listen to Beach Fossil’ latest release, Bunny, here: