As I stood next to the tiny stage of the upstairs portion of the Middle East on Friday night I found myself asking the same question I almost always ask at Boston shows in 2016; how come this place isn’t flooded?? We’re not talking about your cousin’s high school prom band or that obscure 80’s new wave band celebrating 30 years. We’re talking about gritty, sincere, relevant rock and roll. The kind that is palpable. The kind that stimulates all five senses and burrows its way deep inside your soul. The kind that changes you. Black Beach is a band I’ve now seen more than any other in Boston and for good reason. The powerful garage trio has been around for several years now and on Friday, the boys were poised and ready to bestow upon the world their debut LP Shallow Creatures. A compendium of eight stomp inducing, hair thrashing, blood pumping rock and roll tracks fired at the listener from a canon.
The night was attended by a veritable who’s who of the Boston garage scene. Everywhere you looked there were people whose blood sweat and tears go into making this scene what it is. That cooperation and community was no doubt reflected in the other bands on the bill. Local super group The Mardi Kings started things off with their blend of poppy noisy rock. If you’re looking for an example of scene cooperation look no further. Helmed by Andy MacBain of The Monsieurs and supported by members of Nice Guys, Earthquake Party! and The Barbazons, the band crafts static charged dance ragers which were a perfect way to start the night. MacBain spent as much time in the crowd as he did singing to it reminding us all that here in Boston, participation is required. Next up were Steep Leans. With sweet melodies accompanied by thunderous riffs, the four piece are one tight band and their set was evidence of that. The calmer, yet no less ferocious set of 90’s influenced alterna-pop served as the perfect bridge between The Mardi Kings party punk and the post-metal hailstorm that was the third band on the bill. DENT is quickly gaining traction and for good reason. Lead singer/screamer Lane Shi is a force to be reckoned with; losing herself in the explosion that is DENT’s heart attack inducing, start/stop brand of metallic rock. Loud/quiet/loud is an understatement. Small, intimate moments between Lane and lead guitarist Harley Cullen showcase subtle riffs and whispered lyrics that ERUPT into a violent thunder cloud when joined by Jack Whelen and Patric Docmanov’s rhythm section.
In the end, the openers served as a perfect musical amalgamation of what we were all there to celebrate. As DENT wrapped up their set I looked around and realized the room was packed. People squeezed in to the tiny “dance floor” directly in front of the stage and waited. The room got dark and a deep shade of blue cast its shadow over the stage, as Black Beach took to the platform. Joined by the unofficial fifth ghostbuster himself, Peter Colpack, singer/guitarist Steven Instasi gave a shout out to their friends in the opening bands and all those who had come out to the party before jumping right in to Shallow Creatures lead track “Self Portrait”. To say the crowd went wild is a gross understatement. As Ben Semeta’s pounding bass and Instasi’s grungy riffs gave way to that killer psych fueled solo, people went ballistic. Everyone lost themselves and became immersed in the sweaty catharsis that is a Black Beach set. The band followed it up with title track “Shallow Creatures”, a decidedly more hard rock sounding jam which is indicative of the middle part of the album. Sandwiched between the lead in single and the re-recorded version of 2014’s “The Youth is Out There” the albums six middle tracks represent a shift away from the “garage psych” moniker which is thrown around all too often these days. This is hard rock music kids, make no mistake about it. The band ripped through other highlights from the album including “Wallflower” and my personal favorite “Static Sound” a song that makes you writhe in place with each hook. Possession people, it’s what was on the menu and we all ordered a heaping helping. Of course, no Black Beach set is complete in my book without some rats, so I was thrilled when the band took a moment to tear through the Play Loud, Die track. Ultimately, the trio is a tight knit powerhouse. Ryan Nicholson’s erratic yet concise work behind the kit keeps things trudging forward and allows for Ben and Steven’s weighty bass fills and dynamic solos. It’s a cocktail which makes more and more sense with each listen.
The night came to a close and people scrambled to get their copy of the debut LP. Black Beach are a band whose sincerity is apparent. They play rock and roll music for the same reason Richard Hell played it, for the same reason Ian Svenonious or Kurt Cobain played it. They do it because they love it. It makes nights like Friday all the more special. They played to a room of friends. Friends who were all there to rock the fuck out and be reminded of the power of music.