This Beach Slang article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson. Lead photo by Stevil Minta
It’s 9pm in the downstairs bar area of Manchester’s Star and Garter (it’s 9pm everywhere else in Manchester too) and a fair amount of the sizeable crowd that just witnessed an intimate solo set from Kiley Lotz, otherwise known as Petal, have gathered to purchase refreshments before tonight’s main event. In a suitably down to earth manner, Beach Slang’s lead guitarist, Ruben Gallego, is politely waiting his turn when he’s approached by a very enthusiastic fan wishing to partake in a friendly shot of whiskey. We all have that friend don’t we?
Whilst the liquor is being poured, Gallego is enthusing over having Petal as the main support, describing her as the perfect opener for them as he poetically suggests that she “opens up the crowd’s hearts” readying them for Beach Slang’s raw emotion. Judging from the rest of the evening, he was right on the money.
Sufficiently refreshed, the crowd packs back into the relatively small room upstairs which seems all the much smaller considering the 2015 that these Philadelphia favourites had. Following up two EPs from the previous year, the James Alex led four piece released ‘The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us’ to a vast amount of critical acclaim. They could have filled a bigger room but Beach Slang do intimate well. They do it very well in fact.
After entering by walking through the crowd, armed with a pint glass of Jack & Coke (which must’ve been quite potent as Gallego only bought his frontman a can’s worth of the non-alcoholic element) James Alex bounces on to the stage. This man loves his life, his energy fills the stage and the room immediately. It’s immensely refreshing to see a rock musician shun the usual moody persona as it’s his vibrancy that gives Beach Slang their edge.
They immediately burst in with intent by ripping into the album opener, ‘Throwaways’, before delving into their debut EP with the anthemic sing along ‘Kids’. There’s an obvious confidence in their material, no playing it safe with the big hits to warm the crowd up. The confidence is well warranted as almost every Beach Slang song is anthemic in some respect, a quality that allows them to mix up the set every night and avoid the trap of going through the motions.
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The opening to the set is so energetic that it creates self-inflicted technical difficulties as Alex’s bounding around the tiny stage leads his guitar strap to become intent on taking the night off from holding his instrument up. As bassist Ed McNulty attempts to remedy the problem with some gaffer tape amidst the crowd’s chants saluting said tape, Alex borrows Gallego’s guitar for an impromptu solo rendition of ‘Too Late to Die Young’, stopping halfway through to joke that “if there’s one word you wouldn’t associate with Beach Slang, it’s professional”. This doesn’t matter to this Manchester crowd; the party is in full swing in spite of the interruptions.
From that point the set gets stronger and stronger as it goes along. They romp through ‘Young and Alive’ and ‘Noisy Heaven’ from ‘The Things We Do…’ before dipping back into ‘Who Would Ever Want Something So Broken?’ for ‘Get Lost’. James Alex is having so much fun that his bandmates have to occasionally remind him that they need to play some songs in-between the crowd interaction. No one seems to mind when the banter ensues but the quality of ‘Bad Art and Wierdo Ideas’ and ‘Dirty Cigarettes’ truly vindicate his comrade’s reminders of what they’re there to do.
The main set comes to an end with an influences-on-their-sleeve cover of The Replacements’ ‘Bastards of Young’ before they pretend to finish on an emphatic crowd favourite in the shape of ‘American Girls and French Kisses’. Even the sound guy is fooled as he presses play on the post gig playlist but a mass chant for more soon puts an end to that as the band re-emerge from simply standing against the wall of the stage right. It’s as endearing as we’ve come to expect of this band as they set about, unsurprisingly, running well over their stage time with a couple of covers including Jawbreaker’s ‘Boxcar’ before finishing on the blazing ‘Ride the Wild Haze’ at the second time of asking due to the now merry James Alex starting the song in the wrong key. It’s a minor hiccup that sums the charm of Beach Slang up. They’re rough around the edges but their humility and genuine passion for what they do sets them apart from the majority of their contemporaries. Who would you ever want something so perfect anyway?