It’s a cold Thursday, end of January, and Scala needs to warm-up. Beach Slang are going to be on stage as part of their European tour after the release of ‘A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings’. I am quite late, when I finally arrive at the venue for one of the most awaited gigs on my schedule, rushing all the way from Hackney Downs after James Alex’s acoustic set (details here). I completely miss Indian Queens, the first opening act. Sorry about that, I’ll make it up to them, I promise.
The main supporting band on the bill, however, are Oxfordshire-based two-piece Cassels, signed to Big Scary Monsters. They are two brothers who belong to what I would like to define as an emotional crossbreed between punk and post-hardcore: distorted guitar, intense lyricism and obsessive drum riffs. Their ‘Hating Is Easy’ is the number I definitely like the most, beside the emotional ‘Ignoring All the Tunnels & Lights’.
Beach Slang get on stage just after half past nine and Scala takes no more than a couple of songs to get wild as the band’s stage presence grows in intensity. The group plays all the best from their two full-lengths and EPs: ‘Punk in a Disco Bar’, ‘Spin The Dial’, ‘Atom Bomb’, ‘Ride the Wild Haze’ are just a few of the numbers on the setlist. “We are Beach Slang and we are here to punch your hearts”, says James Alex who perfectly knows how to take his audience by the hand and create a perfect atmosphere. The crowd gets crazy with ‘Porno Love’, ‘Hot Tramps’ and – most of all – ‘Dirty Cigarettes’. Then James goes off script, as he likes to say.
A young bloke is introduced as a wannabe guitarists and is invited by the frontman to join the band on stage, from the crowd. His name’s Chris and he plays a sweet and genuine version of ‘Warpaint’, from Beach Slang’s last LP. James talks to him like an older brother would, making the day of a kid just looking forward to showing some guts to hundreds of people at the venue, playing beside his idol. On a personal note, he does it in a great way and I smile at the whole thing, wondering why bands and musicians don’t do something like this more often.
There’s space for a couple of other “special guests” from the audience, who sing bits of The Cure’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, then the frontman delights everyone with a personal, electric cover of ‘Wonderwall’, which keeps Scala on its toes. ‘Punk Or Lust’, part of the encore, kicks off the hugest of the mosh-pits for the night and – I have to confess – at this point I’m all in.
The end comes too soon, so it’s time for another cover, which catches me unprepared yet makes me feel ecstatic. ‘Where Is My Mind’ by the Pixies is one of my favourite songs ever, and I barely can keep it together when the initial guitar riff kicks off. James would be up to play more, but it’s almost 11 pm and he must call it a night, not before saying: “Till the next time, London, if I will ever have to record a live show it will be here: you’re just great!”.
What I truly love about Beach Slang is their genuinity. It’s their humanity and passion which make them soft and tough at the same time. It’s their unique way to be tender and loud, to make people want to jump and to feel part of something.
Do not expect tidiness and perfection, though. Punk rock has to be scruffy, it has to be spontaneous and therefore be real. The real thing is what I want, regardless it’s in the middle of a mosh-pit or while staring at the stage with dreamy eyes. I know I might not sound unbiased, but these guys – Beach Slang – have been the best thing that crossed my way in the last months. And while going back home, rather exhausted and holding a signed vinyl, I couldn’t be more thankful for all of this.