When James Alex took the stage March 25 with Beach Slang, he was in full salesmanship mode.
Performing to a sold out crowd waiting for Minus the Bear, a math rock outfit from the early 2000s, he knew the crowd would take some persuasion to accept his three-chord debauched punk romps. So he did it the best way he could, with a loud rendition of “Noisey Heaven” followed by his signature banter opener, “We’re Beach Slang, and we came to punch you right in the heart.”
And punch they did.
Complete with new guitarist Aurore Ounjian, the new Beach Slang came back with the old and new hits while having more fun on stage than any band I’ve seen in a long time. Alex and company were happy to be back home and did not shy away from imbibing with old friends before the show. On several occasions Alex even took time to pop a breath mint, claiming he smelled like a gin mill. The result was a much looser set than what I’ve seen Beach Slang play before but equally as compelling.
Beach Slang’s is well known for their covers, and this tour is also partially an attempt to sponsor the band’s second cover cassette, “Here, I Made This For You (Volume 2).” While that release reflects Alex’s personal taste and influences (the Modern Lovers cover is particularly good), the choice of covers at Union Transfer were for persuasion and jest. First time listeners in the crowd may have heard Alex’s simple progressions begin to blend together by the end of the show, and he knew how to wow them with a cover of the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind.”
I love Alex’s original material, and the band gave a rousing performance of “Dirty Cigarettes,” but the best part of their sets are consistently the covers. They serve as a witness for Beach Slang’s preaching of rock and roll’s power in it’s lyrics, and it doesn’t hurt when everyone in the crowd knows the chorus.
Before closing out the set, Alex had the band play the riff to Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” as he finished chugging his vodka with no hands. It provided the biggest laugh line of the night, second only to Ounjian’s spontaneous breakout into “Smooth” while Alex tuned his guitar.
Through all of this Alex remained grateful, a full smile on his face even in the weaker parts of the set where he struggles to win the headliner’s crowd over. No one is a bigger believer in the power of music than Alex, and watching him preach it to a crowd between Townshend windmills was worth the price of entry.