BESTiE brings the bubblegum sounds of summer
At Fortune Sound Club on Friday, May 30
To put it mildly, BESTiE isn't for everyone. The Vancouver four-piece self-describes its music as "post wave, posi-core, tropi-vibes, emoji pop", and it has the kind of aggressively cheerful aesthetic that's capable of sending jaded cynics into rage blackouts.
Still, watching the musicians perform their giddy, Caribbean-flavoured bubblegum ditties, it was hard not to admire their unabashed enthusiasm for everything cute and tacky. They're defiantly uncool, and their apparent lack of irony or inhibition made the gig a feel-good celebration of positivity. This was a release show for the band's debut album, No Bad Days, and appropriately enough it took place just down the block from the Chinatown sausage shop Bestie.
Not all of this all-local bill was quite as joyful as the headliner. The night began rather abruptly when Derrival took the stage and immediately launched into its first song without so much as a "hello."
The chiming guitars and vocal harmonies were meticulous, and the rhythm section was rock solid, although the perky pop-rock tunes weren't particularly distinctive. The quintet scored a winner with its penultimate number, however, when a pause in the arrangement was hilariously extended into an agonizing 20-second standoff with the early-bird audience during which singer Adam Mah smirked wryly at the deafening silence.
Up next, Sunshine ventured into slightly louder terrain with a selection of songs that combined the immediacy of pop-friendly alt-rock with the fuzzy blur of the Jesus and Mary Chain. As the venue became increasingly packed over the course of the brief set, the group wisely saved its best material for last, ending with a pair of brawny, hook-filled garage rock cuts—including the single "Arnprior"—that were the performance's far-and-away highlights.
But if Sunshine seemed a little noisy for BESTiE's love fest, this was nothing compared with N E E D S. Much of the crowd stood in stunned silence as the five-piece cranked its amps for a series of scream-filled hardcore punk scorchers. The star was frontman Sean Orr, who punished his vocal chords with gravelly roars while dancing like a goofball in an unfashionably patterned, comically oversize shirt.
At one point, the vocalist bludgeoned himself with a pineapple. A little later, he disgustingly drooled a big wad of a spit and proceeded to suck it in and out of his mouth in time with the beat. It was around then that the woman standing in front of me turned to her friend and, in bemusement, clearly mouthed the words, "What the fuck?"
As if these antics weren't already outrageous enough, Orr took off his pants before leading N E E D S in a set-closing cover of BESTiE's "Asleep on the Bus", which was reworked with passages of thrashing punk. (In case you're wondering, Orr is a boxers man.)
A palate cleanser before the main act, DJs spun thumping club tracks for the revellers. The venue appeared to be slightly below capacity, but it was nevertheless an impressive turnout, and the front of the room was buzzing with energy.
Following a brief Spanish-language introduction from one of BESTiE's buddies, the men of the hour bounded out as a simple projection displayed their band name against a green background at the rear of the stage. Within seconds of the jangling opening notes of "Afraid of the Dark", an onlooker standing near me happily exclaimed, "It sounds like summer!" The rest of the audience seemed to agree, since the floor was suddenly filled with bobbing heads and shimmying shoulders.
From there, "Allison / I'll Listen" was an early highlight, with its punchy pop-rock strums and satisfyingly unfussy melodies, and someone in the throng grabbed at singer Tristan Orchard's shirt when he bent down to deliver a line to the front row.
Not all of the material was quite so successful, as "Pineapple" was overbearing in its tropical affectations and whooping tongue trills. Still, there's no denying that it was a big hit with the audience, and someone provided Orchard with a wicker hat while everyone joined in to holler along with the chorus. There was a potentially embarrassing moment during the song when the computer that was providing the backdrop projection switched to a screensaver, but guitarist Andrew Janczewski laughed it off and the gaffe was soon forgotten.
The staging was simple and stripped down throughout most of the set, but this changed close to the end, when two hula dancers in grass skirts came out to perform a synchronized routine during "Sriracha". This tune featured characteristically buoyant rhythms from drummer Daniel Ruiz and bassist Rob Cameron.
BESTiE then exited briefly, but was called back to the front by chants for "one more song." The ensemble obliged with profuse thank-yous from Orchard, closing with an English-language adaptation of "La Bamba" while a couple of fans jumped up on-stage to execute a jig that was somewhere between a tango and the chicken dance.
Such displays would doubtless have enraged the cynics, but luckily for BESTiE on this night, everyone in the crowd seemed to be on board for the ride.