For weeks on end, I was giddy in anticipation of The Beths’ Asbury Lanes show on August 26th. I felt I’d waited the entirety of my college radio career for this gig, mostly because I had first discovered The Beths’ music in one of our station’s free CD bins during my first semester at Rutgers, in Fall 2018 after a Core training meeting. While we’re not supposed to judge a CD by its cover, a watercolor illustration of a distressed young woman in a yellow dress being stared down by her reflection, a depiction of her future self, led me to pick up the CD and listen to it in its entirety during a quiet winter evening.
The sky drew indigo and black hues as my gaping mouth filled itself with sounds from The Beth’s debut album, Future Me Hates Me. If any LP could project an omen for my next four years, it would be that one. It became a cathartic anthem and comfort album during the hardest times; through “Future heartbreak, future headaches, / Wide-eyed nights late lying awake”. It felt very full-circle to reach the end of what felt like a never-ending summer before senior year with the band that put me through college (emotionally).
The Beths are an Auckland, New Zealand indie band signed to my current favorite label, Carpark Records. Squeaky-clean powerhouse vocalist Elizabeth Stokes sings and plays guitar, while lead guitarist Jonathan Pierce noodles away to the bouncing basslines of Benjamin Sinclair, and top notch beats laid down by drummer Tristan Deck. This band is well known for their vocal harmonies and thorough musicianship, likely attributed to their jazz studies at the University of Auckland.
During their set, birthday boy bassist Benjamin Sinclair announced that Rosie Tucker (they/them) is his favorite musical artist at the moment, and fortunately I was privy to witnessing Tucker’s enrapturing, twangy tunes before The Beths took stage. Rosie Tucker is a singer-songwriter signed to Epitaph Records. They are a self-described “non sequitur equestrian” and “harbinger of doom” hailing from Los Angeles, California. The whole time I was wondering– why are they here? Why are The Beths and Rosie Tucker playing NEW JERSEY? Of all places?!
The answer probably lies in that Sum 41 was playing The Stone Pony just two blocks away– The Beths did admit to catching Sum 41’s set before their own show began. As my friends and I yipped and skipped down Asbury’s boardwalk waiting for Doors, we played a silly game called “Do you think this person is decked out to see Sum 41 or The Beths?” On the far end of the boardwalk was a piece of beach carved out for canines. Dogs dressed themselves in sand, then stripped in the ocean waves, sniffed each other and galloped. This was the well of happiness and feral energy that we needed to rock out after being ravaged by the work week.
Lollygagging near Asbury Lanes, we took fun photos in front of the marquee, and befriended other showgoers. Spontaneous comraderie resulted in the four-way, hard-style picture on my phone, featuring two lovely people whose names I unfortunately never caught. A song off The Beth’s sophomore LP, Jump Rope Gazers, called “I’m Not Getting Excited”, buzzed in my brain as excitement grew outside the venue.
Inside the venue, bowling lanes corralled a frenzied crowd towards the stage, and an artistic arrangement of colorful bowling balls loomed from above. Caged liquor bottles glowed between bar stools for those 21+, and a small diner decorated with old records and band posters held up its bright lights in the back corner, promising late-night milkshakes to quench post-concert cravings.
Around 7:30pm, we directed our attention towards the stage, as Rosie Tucker and their band rang in their first notes. Tucker’s bright, pristine voice projected poetic, contemplative lyrics to an entranced audience. While I had just vaguely heard of Tucker before hearing them perform live, I was swept up in all-awe and emotion during their set. I would describe their music as tender, quirky, honest and grunge-like. A highlight of the performance was when Tucker and their lead guitarist Jess Kallen (they/them) announced that just the two of them were going to play a song that they do a bit differently at every show– it was just a delight to see. Tucker and Kallen alternated between positions on their guitar necks, same chords held slightly higher or lower, like a voice splitting off into sorrow and joy mid sentence. I was sad to see them saunter off stage, but determined to delve into their entire discography when I got home that night.
And then, spots of vivid violet and magenta flooded the stage, inking sharp silhouettes that revealed The Beths, cool, collected, and charged for a high-tide crowd. Each song, pronouncing the pains of being pure at heart, but “Just Shy of Sure” bled into each other with pounding drums, diligent yet frantic guitar, thrumming bass. The Beth's dazzling power pop tunes swept everyone off their feet, as if showgoers were hooked at their shirt collars by the moon and spun amongst celestial bodies. Their limbs, pulsing with rhythm, seemed independently sentient, and each beat and strum appeared effortless. Awe rushed in, then seceded itself to the quiet, sweet, spunky banter of the band, who remarked that both Atlantic and Pacific oceans were both lovely, but smelled slightly different. They had the air of overwhelmingly deserving rock stars who had never meant nor dreamt for this sort of thing to happen, but were eager to cast their gifts to the sea and receive whatever revealed itself in the hazy foam with smiling thanks. As my never-ending summer was tugged back into the Atlantic, I felt humbled to be breathing the same salty, Jersey air as The Beths, crashing in from the Pacific.
The Beth's third LP, Expert In A Dying Field, was released on September 16th, 2022.