New Zealand indie pop crooners The Beths made it all the way to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Bandshell, and they managed to avoid a rainstorm with only a few sprinkles during the night and put on a wonderfully heartfelt and effervescent show that really helped to warm those broken hearts in the crowd. It was only a short bit back in 2018 when this band played the relatively small backroom Bushwick venue Alphaville, and last time I saw them at Music Hall of Williamsburg in 2019 they were clearly already breaking through with a packed sold out crowd. It was that incredibly catchy 2020 album Jump Rope Gazers that bust them into some glowing mainstream success, but it was clear that the pandemic really blocked their soaring upward blastoff. However, they do have a new album coming out called Expert in a Dying Field due out in September, and now that the strict New Zealand quarantines are hopefully a thing of the past, they are finally back out on the road and pulling on the heartstrings of indie pop fans everywhere.
The Canadian singer-songwriter Charlotte Cornfield opened the show with her distinctly ethereal sound that is very inspired by serious folk and jazz reverberations and delves into some deeply introspective lyrics that are sung with a wonderfully angelic harmony. Her songs remind me of great female artists like Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee), Kacey Musgraves, and Neko Case, and she is clearly a brilliant young songstress that is ready to hop a shooting star of success herself. Her onstage delivery is shy and understated, but her music makes its own magic and really bewitches you.
SASAMI was up next, and she stood out in the lineup as a real firebrand among a more chillaxed and aloof indie pop crowd, but her brand of scorching metal was a wonderful kick to the soul sandwiched in the middle of the show. I first saw Sasami Ashworth several years ago when she was in the alt-rock group Cherry Glazerr that I very much loved, but then she split off and started off her solo career that initially had a very electro-alt-pop sound that sparkled and hissed on her self-titled debut back in 2019. She’s gone through a lot of intense changes since then, as she’s turned to some harder metal sounds as a direct response the white male domination of the music realm, and this new turn is a direct stab at appropriating that cis masculine scene as well as twisting and bending those tones to her own means. Her new album Squeeze almost feels like it is possessed by demons, as it is packed with intense contrasts and dynamic divergences, with echoes of her earliest background in classical music going head to head with her swelling affection for grinding goth metal. Her presence on stage felt haunted and menacing, as she wore a frilly white dress like a sinister haunted play doll as scorched blaring solos on her guitar and shrieked like a banshee calling you to crash on her rocks so she could devour you. She only played songs off the new album like “The Greatest” and “Not a Love Song,” which also included her roaring cover of Daniel Johnson’s “Sorry Entertainer” that almost knocked me on my ass live. She is a truly stunning performer to catch live, and you should absolutely go out of your way to have your face melted off by her whenever she collides with your safe space.
The Beths came out for their headlining set, and they brought the show back to the soft-spoken and rather melancholy tone they are known for, but they created an impressive amount of excitement in the crowd as everybody in the crowd seemed to get on their feet and bop around to their tantalizingly alluring tunes. Lead singer and guitarist Elizabeth Stokes is an incredibly shy frontperson. She often seems to strain to connect with the audience and usually seems like she’d rather disappear into the back of the crowd rather than be the life of the party, but that is a large part of the charm of her music, as she writes of being an introvert and the social anxieties that many people, myself included, can really connect with. The full band really kicks the music into the stratosphere, with tasty guitar leads by Jonathan Pearce that are almost criminally delicious, and the driving rhythms by bassist Benjamin Sinclair and drummer Tristan Deck that really keep the tempo at premium bopping around speed. Together they create an enchanting harmony and captivating beat that really feels like a magical mixture, almost like if Camera Obscura, Courtney Barnett, and Stevie Nicks had a musical baby. They played lots of great songs from their last album Jump Rope Gazers like “I’m Not Getting Excited” and “Dying to Believe,” as well as songs like “Happy Unhappy” “and “You Wouldn’t Like Me” from their first 2018 Future Hates Me album, but there was also lots of great tastes of new songs off their upcoming album, like the new release “Silence Is Golden” and a rocking new track that really killed me called “Knees Deep.” Every time I see The Beths they remind me of why I love seeing new bands flourish and mature on stage, and these young musicians, and I’m sure they will make you fall in love again as well.
Article/Images: Dean Keim