Review: Beach Slang let the good times roll at London’s Barfly

Philly punk-rockers set phasers to fun with a set packed full of charisma and great songs.

 Word has been spreading slowly but surely about Philadelphia’s Beach Slang since their inception in 2013. The release of debut full-length The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us last October then confirmed that any hype was utterly justified, offering up 27 minutes of gloriously uplifting punk rock.

It’s no surprise then, that those in the know got tickets for their UK tour well in advance, selling out their show at Camden’s Barfly weeks ahead of the date. As support act Petal takes to the stage, the room starts filling up nicely to hear her beautifully delicate vocals, backed only by her guitar for the majority of the set.

 Winning over the crowd easily with a set of heartwarming songs and a personality so endearing you forget you’re not actually friends with her yet, she’s the perfect accompaniment to Beach Slang’s gruffer approach to feel good vibes. One of her friends even flew over from Philadelphia just to hang out. That’s a LONG way to say hello, which speaks volumes really.

By the time Beach Slang take to the stage, the venue is rammed, with a few left to peer around the corner of everyone’s least favourite wall in the Barfly just to catch a glimpse. As soon as they kick into Throwaways, caution is well and truly thrown to the wind as the throng bounce around with abandon. 

Vocalist/guitarist James Alex’s youthful enthusiasm throughout the set belies his 40+ years on this earth, many of which he has spent perfecting his craft. In this case, his craft is raucous punk rock, drenched in roaringly fuzzy guitars, overlaid with mountainous vocal melodies, which carry lyrics that punch you straight in the heart.

Switching back and forth between tracks from their debut and early EPs, the likes of Kids, Filthy Luck and Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas rattle out of the speakers, the quartet looking like they’re having the time of their lives. Melded together by Alex’s brilliant on stage patter, there is a constant tinge of excitement laced throughout the night. Inviting Senseless Things’ Ben Harding on stage for a cover of Too Much Kissing is a great touch, with Alex looking like all his birthdays have arrived at once. 

Much has been said about Philadelphia’s burgeoning music scene and with bands as strong as Beach Slang, it’s clear to see why. Not everything sounds perfect and the songs aren’t cauterized by technology to within an inch of their life. They’re allowed to breathe and sometimes that means things can go wrong as a full band version of Too Late to Die Young goes awry, but it doesn’t matter. There’s feeling and passion here, which is a whole lot more rewarding than a backing track ever will be.

Great covers of Jawbreaker’s Boxcar and The Replacements’ Bastards of Young (with Harding Return to the stage) in the encore give the air that this is no longer a gig, it’s a jam with around 150 friends watching. Finally, almost too quickly, we’re sent off into the night with the white hot noise of Ride The Wild Haze ringing in our ears and smiles on our faces.

Beach Slang are back in London this June. Listen to the album, fall in love with it and get a ticket as soon as you can.

Words: Callum Galbraith