On paper, last night’s bill made complete sense: three of-the-moment bands bound by a common interest in noise and melody. In reality though, they take noise and melody and cut them in three very different, distinct ways. This becomes clear in a live setting. On the verge of their debut full-length release, Small Black consistently knocked the chillwave label they commonly get tagged with. Singer Josh Kolenik's high-strung vocals fell high in the mix for the majority of the time, for one. Two: that kid just wants to dance. Sure, he was more inclined to sway dreamily during the sad, romantic, Jesus & Mary Chain-indebted hit “Despicable Dogs” (at which point the stage lights were turned exceedingly low to help set "the mood"), but opener "Weird Machines" welcomed playful bouncing along. Even the more echoey, bleary-eyed songs were infused with quirky elements — usually spiraling, spacey effects — enough to make the guitarist’s seriously awesome “Crazy for Swayze” t-shirt not completely out of place.
Male Bonding are an odd bunch from the looks of it: a bassist who resembles the kooky roommate in Notting Hill, a guitarist donning a Hawaiian print baseball cap and Weezer glasses, and a pink-cheeked drummer who looks like Finn from Glee. They played their brand of high-impact punk very fast, and very loudly — like a cross between early Nirvana and early Green Day. Whether songs were in the hands of Kevin Hendrick on bass, aligning with more snot-nosed, classically British punk, or the more dreaming-sounding John Webb on guitar, they were anchored by Robin Christian's wild, possessed drumming. He did not hit subtly, leading the band though a rapid-fire 30-minute set with no in-between-song chatter. There should’ve been a mosh pit, but maybe Best Coast fans were to stoned to make the effort.
Case in point: Entering to a fitting rendition of “Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino began her set with, “It smells like weed. That’s cool.” From there, things went pretty much as expected. There were references to Snacks the cat, shouts of “I want to have your baby!” from boys in the crowd, and one enjoyable lo-fi, left-coast pop song after another, adequately bolstered by Bobb Bruno’s bass and ex-Vivian Girl Ali Koehler‘s simple, no-fuss drumming. A lag in crowd energy about three-fourths of the way during the hour-long set was saved by her just being so likable. She giggled and sang songs with lines about missing her Mom.
There was a slight surprise though. The biggest change since her pre-album stint at Mercury Lounge this spring was her confidence. Even when singing single-minded obsessive songs about wishing boys would like her, she didn’t look down-and-out. In fact, she looked happy, or at least relaxed, taking a moment early on to thank everyone for their support. “Just a short time ago I was just a lonely college student in New York and now we’re doing this. Thank you. Truthfully.” Cue giggle. Soon after, before launching into a speedy version of "Boyfriend" came, “This is dedicated to all the boys in the house.” Uh, oh. Somebody better tell Wavves.