August 11, 2011
California Academy of Sciences/Outside Lands night show
Better than: Being the tortoise Claude the albino alligator uses as a stepping stone.
It's always hard to see shows at the California Academy of Sciences. Going there is easy, but watching humans -- even famous ones -- fiddle with noisemaking machines tends to be less exciting than, say, taking in the rays swimming under your feet in near-dark, oogling the baby horned turtles crawling around, or staring while Claude the albino alligator does pretty much anything, even blinking.
Last night all of these sights were easier to come across than the main attraction: a live set by Best Coast on the outside patio. The stage area, unfortunately, was at or just above the height of the area surrounding it, so what most of us saw were glimpses of Bethany Cosentino in between the backs of many others' heads. An unfortunate fertilizer smell permeated the area, so that the best place to take in Best Coast might have been inside the museum, where you could still hear. It felt strangely appropriate to watch Cosentino through the glass from the back, like some sort of blond, Telecaster-wielding natural attraction.
Although frustrating initially, this situation turned out to make for a fun, weird show. The set sounded clear inside and out, so you could cruise the museum and let your eyes pop out at dinosaur bones at while humming along to "Crazy for You." You could wander over to the central atrium, where DJs were dropping beats on a willing crowd, and determine the precise point at which the maelstrom of bass overtook her pop songs. You could sing Cosentino's love songs to Claude (it was kind of hard to hear over there, but we know all the words by now.)
The Best Coast figurehead herself seemed in decent spirits. Although she complained that she didn't have time to get drunk before the show, she implored the rest of us to get drunk for her. (Lots of people seemed to be taking her up on this.) Despite playing through a tiny P.A., her band isued a generous hour-long set that included pretty much every Best Coast song you've heard a million times and a few you haven't. ("Goodbye" and "When I'm with You" were our favorites.)
Still, it's a serious bummer to have little or no chance of actually seeing the artist you came to see without muscling to the very front, even in a place that offers numerous visual distractions. (Surely some came to see Eskmo -- whose early evening set we missed but heard good things about -- or the DJs, but Best Coast was the headliner.)
The awkwardness of holding a show in the Academy of Sciences was underscored right at the end of the band's set: It was about 10 p.m. when the museum staff members began making it known that they wanted everyone out. 10 p.m.! On a Thursday! With everyone dressed up in their pre-festival-weekend cocktail dresses and thick-rimmed glasses and vintage skirts! 10 p.m.!
So yeah, we're really sorry, Claude, we didn't mean to cut the magic short so soon.
Early birds: Seriously, guys, 6 p.m. is too early to start a show, even in a museum on a weeknight.
Useful, though: Depending on how you look at it, you either got enough Best Coast last night to up your anticipation of the band's Outside Lands set -- or enough to skip it completely and see someone else.