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New York Cool - Music

Best Coast, Free Energy and
Loose Limbs
American Express
River to River Festival
July 23, 2010

Written by Geoff Leung
Photographed by Amy Davidson


Opposite Photo :Free Energy



Paul Spranger of Free Energy

Having read Rolling Stone's endorsement of Free Energy. I was honestly expecting much less. Let's be honest, when was the last time Rolling Stone got anything right? The group, in particular lead singer Paul Spranger, look like kids who grew up listening to 70s rock instead of 90s rock. But the band ignited the crowd and for the length of the set it didn't feel like there was a moment of rest. Jumping on every big thump, the Hanson-look alikes danced around the stage, easily navigating between guitar solos and hooks.

Paul Spranger of Free Energy

There aren't a lot of bands that make good guitar-rock music today, and the ones who do, sometimes take themselves too seriously. Something about playing a decent guitar solo makes a band think that they suddenly deserve rock-god respect. Free Energy played an unpretentious set that was great because they didn't pretend to be something they're not. Leaving the histrionics to The Antlers (who played the night before at River Rocks), they looked like five friends jamming in their basement, having more fun than anyone should in 75% humidity. Being genuine doesn't get as much credit as it deserves. It doesn't hurt when your band chemistry is as good as theirs, or when James Murphy produces your records. Murphy's fingerprints are especially apparent in comparison to Hockey Night (the St. Paul, MN indie band where Spranger and both Wells originated). The tight grooves are precocious for a band this young; but so is their effervescent stage presence.

Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast

The buzz that follows Best Coast right now can't get much louder. The carefree band jams about things considered serious only by teenage girls . In a 60's pop revival, Bethany Cosentino and Co. are making critically acclaimed pop music with straightforward vocals and simpler lyrics. Having streamed the LP, Crazy For You, I knew what to expect, and seemingly so did everyone else. For better or worse the group's songs rarely exceed the 2:30 mark, and in that way the ADD and instant-gratification-seeking music fans can easily find something to like about them. It will take them at least two more full-lengths to have enough material to play a headlining set.

Ali Koehler of Best Coast

Their sound is simple, yet unique, and if Bethany Costino had a contemporary it would probably be the Acid-Tongue's Jenny Lewis. In a recent interview, Costino admitted to idolizing Lewis as a teen. I wouldn't have thought it until seeing her live, but between her white-rimmed wayfarers and short shorts there isn't a better comparison. There is a difference in style though--Jenny has a country inclination and Bethany has a 60's one.

Bobb Bruno of Best Coast

Writing buddy and bassist, Bobb (yes, three b's in Bobb) Bruno let his heavy metal hair thrash around in the way you expect to see on a stage fronted by a mosh pit. The highlight of their set was not my favorite Best Coast recording ("Boyfriend"), but "I Want You." It started slowly and honestly, boringly even, but finished in a surprising and rapturous climax. There wasn't a better late-afternoon band on this sweltering Friday.

Loose Limbs should have felt a bit out of place; however, their brand of raw rock that fits its vocals in between its guitar phrases was unphased by a bill featuring the simplest kind of pop and the tightest kind of rock. Their single "Red Hands" typified the band's dynamic: the lead singer pre-occupied with playing guitar, the drummer staring off into space, and the only real energy coming from the bassist. The band's use of a standing drummer is unique, and keeps their drumming sound sparse at times. I appreciate the idea to make all three band members appear equal, but there's a reason most bands put their most charismatic members up front. Maybe lead singer, Corinne Caouette, just hasn't developed enough of a stage presence to stand front and center.


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