Arts concert review

Beach Fossils live, what a pleasure

Indie rock band kicks off tour in Boston

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Vocalist-guitarist Dustin Payseur of Beach Fossils performs at their concert in Paradise Rock Club Wednesday.

Beach Fossils
Paradise Rock Cafe
Jan. 15

Indie rock is a hazy genre, encompassing music that could be characterized as psychedelic, raw, experimental, or just weird. With their dreamy melodies of reverb-heavy vocals over jangly guitar picking, Beach Fossils fit right in with the other artists of the genre, including DIIV and No Vacation. Though they may not be the only band with such a sound, they’ve certainly mastered it and might be one of the more well-known groups in the indie rock world. The three-man band, consisting of guitarist-vocalist Dustin Payseur, bassist Jack Doyle Smith, and guitarist Tommy Davidson, recently kicked off a national tour at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. With no new music from the band since their 2017 album Somersault, I’d already overplayed all their songs to the point of being tired of them. Even so, I was hopeful that hearing them played live would revive my love for the group.

To warm up the crowd, singer Negative Gemini showcased some of her dream-pop hits. Though her vocals were a little hard to hear over the rhythmic electronic music and heavy bass, she had a pretty voice reminiscent of artists like Clairo. Her music had a definite feminine quality that the pink and purple lights as well as her pink hair accentuated. Between dancing, playing the guitar and keyboard, and falling to the ground in displays of emotion, Negative Gemini put on quite a performance. She experienced a few technical struggles with feedback screeching during her act but overall did a great job opening. 

With a drumroll and dramatic introduction, the members of Beach Fossils entered the stage. It was clear that they were incredibly comfortable in the limelight, even though the venue was packed with people. Throughout the night, they kept a relaxed demeanor, even sitting or exchanging words with each other in the middle of strumming their guitars and sipping beers between songs. Even when Payseur had to fix an amp in the middle of the show, they never seemed nervous but rather emanated confidence.

This confidence stemmed from the fact that Beach Fossils concentrated on their musical talents and just let their guitar picking do the speaking for them. They took few breaks to talk, typically going straight from song to song. Their set was minimalistic; compared to the stage during Negative Gemini’s opener, strewn with wires and keyboards, it now felt empty with little more than a few guitar stands. They dressed in regular street clothes and didn’t try to perform, opting instead to simply meander around the stage as they played. But when I tried to keep track of the different guitars being played and lost count at around six, it was clear that Beach Fossils used all their energy to perfect their music. Whether acoustic, electric, or bass, each guitar was brought to life by the talented fingers of the musicians. Payseur’s soft vocals accompanied the guitar notes while really letting them shine, and instrumental periods were common.

Focusing on the music was well worth it; Beach Fossils sounded even better live than in their recorded songs. While many of their songs are dreamlike and comforting, better suited for quiet moments, at the concert they were exciting and energetic. The drums, usually pretty subtle in Beach Fossils songs, were much more prevalent and heightened the intensity of the music. The band members’ talented guitar picking was even more impressive in person. I could hear and feel each individual twang of a guitar string, yet at the same time every note blended together to form a complex, beautiful melody. They played their most popular songs from all of their albums: “Somersault,” “Clash the Truth,” “What a Pleasure,” “Beach Fossils.” With each new song, I was more in awe.

Everyone else was obviously just as excited about the music as I was. Dancing, singing, and even crowd surfing though against venue rules, the crowd got progressively more rowdy as the concert went on. The club erupted in cheers after every mind-bending guitar solo or when one of the band members neared touching distance from the edge of the crowd. Surrounded by so many passionate people, I could feel my happiness being exponentially amplified. This was undoubtedly one of the most fun concerts I’d ever been to.

Everything about Beach Fossils’ live show evoked a feeling of utter joy in me, from the uplifting and vibrant music to the positive vibes of everyone in the room. While they are an incredible band on recordings, in person they are unmissable. As Payseur joked early in the night, this first day of their tour was “not best for last, but the opposite.”