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Live Review and Photos: Beach Fossils, December 18, 2011, Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA

Scheduling Beach Fossils at Part Time Punks, a weekly club that often hosts retro dance parties, nostalgic indie, and bands like Iceage, seemed like it might not be a perfect fit, not because Beach Fossils didn’t fit the sound of the club, but because I doubted whether Beach Fossils could match the energy that Part Time Punks is known for. But, not the numerous recommendations about what a good live band Beach Fossils is, nor their recorded work, could have prepared me for the energy that Dustin Payseur and his three bandmates bring to the stage, igniting a particularly large Sunday night crowd into a dancey, pushy, jumpy frenzy.

Opening the evening was Sweater Girls, an L.A.-based garage pop band that brought the news to the Echoplex of Kim Jong-Il’s demise. Apparently, the last time Sweater Girls played Part Time Punks, Osama Bin Laden had died, so their performances in some weird way brought upon the deaths of world villains. And, though they could have used an injection of adrenaline or excitement or some kind on enthusiasm to bring together their well-worn, though perfectly pleasant, brand of tunes, if watching 30-minutes of Sweater Girls makes the world a safer place for democracy, I’m all in.

Like an escalator ride, the evening’s second set elevated the standards, as Catwalk (though they appear to have a new drummer and have added a member since last time I saw them) made their way through a painfully brief set that flexed potential and stirred some excitement for their 2012 Captured Tracks album. With a combination of first-listen melodies, straight-forward musicianship, and a fair amount of humility, Catwalk lived up to the growing buzz that has been surrounding them, existing somewhere in the broad indie-pop realm that always has room for a new occupant. And, the crowd dug it, bopping in time to the up-tempo tunes and giving a band they weren’t familiar both their attention and their due.

With just an LP and EP in their catalog, Beach Fossils has apparently struck a chord in the indie rock community, which may come as a bit of a surprise, being that they are not one of the most blogged about or hyped bands out there. Still, the fans turned out in great numbers for their headlining set, pushing forward against the rail in the manner that you would expect at a show for Full Time Punks, not Part Time Punks. And, Beach Fossils met the atmosphere with tremendous energy, with all the members of the band dancing while they played, jumping around and striking rock-star poses.

The music was a less lo-fi, more amped-up version of what you would find on the records. Nearly every song was received with a cheer when it became apparent which one it was, with certain numbers like “Vacation” and “Youth” causing audible eruptions. Fans would even yell out requests for personal favorites like “Lazy Day” and “Golden Age.” It is tough to say whether the audience knew they were in for such a rock show, but it is undoubtable that they appreciated, waving their hands in the air, providing unrequested clapping percussion to slower numbers, and generally having a blast.

Beach Fossils even had a few surprises, including an inspired and fuzzed out take on “Sometime” by Dive – the band with whom they share guitarist Cole Smith. In an age where it is common for a band like Beach Fossils to just stand still and play their songs, it was refreshing to see a band not play it cool, clearly having fun on stage. This kind of performance is infectious, and it just might be what separates Beach Fossils from the many like-sounding bands that they have to compete with for attention. Hell, Payseur even concluded the encored by taking his mic of the stand and leading into the audience. A part time punk indeed.

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