LIVE: Beach Slang / Weaves / Muncie Girls @ The Forum, Tunbridge Wells

By Glen Bushell

For a brief moment a few months ago, it seemed Beach Slang were no more. After an incident in Salt Lake City, front man James Alex seemingly called time on the Philadelphian bands existence, thus sending their fans into a state of shock. Thankfully this was a mere momentary lapse of reason and Beach Slang have been able to continue the ascension that really gained momentum after last year’s stunning debut album, ‘The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us’. So tonight, as they kick off their first UK tour since the aforementioned situation, the first night should be buzzing with anticipation and excitement, correct?

Apparently not.

On this wet Tuesday night in Tunbridge Wells, The Forum – a venue that is just as famous for once being a public toilet as it is for hosting pivotal gigs by Oasis and Green Day back in the day – is more like a morgue as opposed to the regular jovial atmosphere you expect from a Beach Slang show. It’s a shame, and there is foreboding sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach after a cursory glance around the room shows there are no more than 10 people there by the time Muncie Girls take the stage; making the hallowed halls of this small venue feel like the cavernous surrounds of an empty arena.

That doesn’t stop Muncie Girls from showing why they are one of the best bands the UK has to offer right now. They are tight and the songs flow with energy and vigour. Much of the set is drawn from their latest album, ‘From Caplan to Belsize’, and vocalist Lande Hekt is note perfect throughout. With songs as charming as ‘Balloon’ and ‘Learn In School’, and one of the brightest futures out of all of our upcoming and home grown talent, there is still so much yet to come from Muncie Girls.

Without doing too much of a disservice to tonight’s main support, Weaves, they are somewhat of an unknown quantity. Well, at least to this reviewer and the audience this evening – which has risen by about 2 people at this point. Their soulful-yet-dissonant garage rock, carried by Jasmyn Burke’s screeching vocals is lost on the crowd, and they stand out like a sore thumb. To their credit, they do have a larger than life stage presence, and are a talented quartet, tonight just wasn’t their night.

“We are Beach Slang, and we are here to punch you in the heart,” says a smiling James Alex, addressing the handful of people in the room. Needless to say, from their first chord, they do just that, and give it everything they have for the thirty-minutes they are on stage. Alex is the picture of a young Paul Westerberg of The Replacements, blasting through ‘Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas’, ‘Noisy Heaven’, and ‘Ride The Wild Haze’ with their trademark sincerity.

The beauty in Beach Slang’s music, is the way in which they are able to make you feel like you are the only person watching them. Every song, from the stoned romance of ‘American Girls and French Kisses’ to the self-examining narrative of ‘Dirty Cigarettes’ could be about anyone’s growing pains, never failing to resonate with you. As the final notes of ‘Punk or Lust’ ring out, you can’t help but feel the band ended their set somewhat prematurely this evening, but it didn’t stop them from making the best out of a bad situation.

This will no doubt be a one-off situation in terms of attendance and vibe, but there are certainly two things that can be taken from this show: Firstly, there is still a need for better promotion of shows. Secondly, there is absolutely still a need for Beach Slang. Whether they are playing to 15 people, 150 people, or 1500 people, they break your heart and make you feel alive in equal measure, and are one of the most important bands of our time.