Surf-rocking to a new school year

Review: Best Coast opens the semester at Westcott Theater with Syracuse acts Animal Pants and Sarah Aument.

There may have been other people besides Syracuse University students at the Westcott Theater Friday night, but, as Giovanni Giardina, drummer for Syracuse band Animal Pants put it, it was "an SU party."

The evening's headliners, Best Coast, were far from their native California, but were preceded onstage by two local acts that gave the feeling of an SU show. From opener Sarah Aument, a senior at Newhouse, to an Animal Pants song about an SU parking attendant named Stanley, the theme of the university being fully populated once again.

Photo: Isabel Alcantara
Multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno of Best Coast jams on guitar at the Wescott Theater Friday night.

"So, is this your first show of the semester?" Best Coast frontwoman Bethany Cosentino asked the crowd as if the event was strictly a student function. "You guys just want to party and we’re here to help you do that."

Aument opened the night with songs from her 2010 album Vertical Lines, as well as more recent recordings like "Gold," which got a particular rise out of the crowd. Her folk-rock has much more going on than the simplicity that "folk" implies. Ramped up guitar riffs chased Aument through lyrics about falling. Hair flying everywhere, she ended the set singing, "is this really a rock and roll show?" as her syllables dissolved into pure noise.

Animal Pants followed Aument, and the foursome proudly announced that they live right up the street. They played a set comprised predominantly of tracks from their new self-titled album. Frontman Jeffrey York's vocals invoked comparisons to Radiohead's Thom Yorke. He occasionally traded off singing duties with Giardina, whose drum kit sat center stage. Mostly, the band spun little soundscapes with songs like "Brains" and "Garden" slowly unwinding throughout the set.

Then there was "Song for Stanley," which York described as a tune written about a particularly kind Syracuse University employee. "Heaven surely has a place for the sweet man," he sang.

The evening's headliners, Best Coast, packed a lot into their set, with most songs lasting only three minutes or less. From recognizable crowd-pleasers like "Boyfriend," off the group's 2010 album Crazy for You, to newer songs like "When You Wake Up," they kept the crowd buzzing to their brand of fuzzy, distorted West-Coast garage-rock.

The barebones three-piece banged out one song after another as the crowd pushed in closer to the stage. Cosentino paid the occasional compliment to the city of Syracuse interspersed among comments that included profane mumblings about Bambi.

"Sometimes you just forget s—," Cosentino said while introducing "Bratty B," a song that hasn’t seen much play on the road for the simple reason that she can’t always remember how to play it.  After success in sound check, she said, the song came off no problem.

Cosentino returned a few times to the novelty of start-of-school-year Syracuse.

"Send the college dropout to play the first show of the semester," she quipped.

Still, if the audience was in a certain blowing-off-steam type of mindset, she summed it up with an introduction to "Summer Mood."

"Summer's over," she said, "but it doesn't have to be."

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