Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER
Even if you’re agnostic about Beach Slang’s brand of super-catchy, radio-ready punk anthems, there are two reasons that you’d still lose out if you took a dare not to enjoy their show. First, James Alex, Beach Slang’s mop-topped frontman-singer-songwriter-guitarist, bleeds openly with a genuine joy and gratitude for the living he gets to make doing what he does, and seems not to be able to help but share that joy and that gratitude effusively for all who hear him play. There’s no irony or cynicism, no arrogance to accompany his newfound celebrity and national attention. For Alex, it’s clear this is a dream realized and hard-won, the fruit of a couple decades of love and labor, of dedication, of an unflagging passion for professed heroes and for all that music means to him.
The second reason is, Beach Slang lays it all down. Alex offers 110% of himself, thrashing his pale hollow-body Epiphone and windmilling his way through the night. It’s a stagecraft perpetrated with the confidence of a band that loves their work and is comfortable in their shoes. A band that’s earned the right to practice the long tradition of rock ‘n roll theater and that does so in earnest, and without pretense.
Saturday night at Union Transfer, Beach Slang led the sold-out crowd through a blazing homecoming set featuring a dozen or so singalongs for would-be fans even if not many of them knew all the words yet. Beach Slang is in the midst of a national tour with headliners Minus The Bear. Early on in the set, Alex conceded Beach Slang’s genre disparity with Minus The Bear, expressing his thanks for the “open minds” with which the headliner’s fans have been receiving his band’s music on this tour. In fact, if you had come last night with a bit of a chip on your shoulder for the sometimes-self-indulgent tendencies of pop-punk, you might still have been warmed over by Alex’s deliberate, even self-aware appeal for your affection. “We’re Beach Slang,” he declared, “and we’re here to punch you in the heart.” Word. — JOSH PELTA-HELLER