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Beach Fossils Cover
Cover by Isabella Balbi

By Isabella Balbi

Brooklyn garage pop group Beach Fossils, known for their dreamy lo-fi sound and candidly relatable lyricism, played a three night residency from October 17th through the 19th at The Chapel in San Francisco as part of the venue’s 10th anniversary celebration. 

Alongside label mates like Wild Nothing, Mac DeMarco and DIIV, Beach Fossils were trailblazers in the lo-fi bedroom pop sound that emerged from the 2010’s indie scene. Founded by frontman Dustin Payseur in 2009, the group’s sound has evolved over the decade, flourishing from the atmospheric, sleepy melodies featured on What a Pleasure (2011), to the more complex production and post punk punk sounds featured on their 2017 release Somersault. 

Coming off of their 2019 “I Love You Touracross North America, and amid rescheduled tour dates with label mate, Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils have embarked on a string of shows across California, welcoming Bay Area-based punk group Spiritual Cramp to open Tuesday night’s show

Named after a Christian Death song, Spiritual Cramp’s sound is emblematic of the golden age of 80’s post punk  – frantic rhythms and sonorous vocals defined by a DIY ethic. The group’s performance was fast, loud, and set apart by the band’s vivacious tambourine player Max Wickham, who pummelled bells into his body throughout the duration of the set in the most punk manner possible.

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Photo by Isabella Balbi

After Spiritual Cramp’s opening set, a WWE entrance theme blared over the venue speakers, and Beach Fossil’s current live band – Dustin Payseur (vocals, guitar), Jack Doyle Smith (bass), Tommy Davidson (guitar), and Anton Hochheim (drums) took the stage,  delivering an evening full of jangly guitar riffs, echoing drums, and warmly distorted melodies.

Mood is a central instrument in the group’s arsenal, an aspect of the set that was heightened amid visuals of sentimental scenes by projection artist Zach Rodell. Projections of car rides through suburban neighborhoods, foliage on tree lined streets, close ups of turtles in anonymous ponds, ripples of sunlight bouncing off water – these were the images flashing across the stage throughout the night, the same kind of images that flash on the inside of your eyelids when listening to Beach Fossils lyrics like “I’m thinking of you fondly when I’m on the train” and “life can be so vicious that we can’t even appreciate its purities”.

The other key component of a Beach Fossils show? Camaraderie. Around halfway into the set, when a crumpled note gets passed onstage, the band scan over a message scrawled in sharpie that’s been smeared with sweat, and ponder for a moment.  

“Hmmm.. you wanna use my guitar?”

“If that’s okay”, replies a voice from the crowd.  

Video by Isabella Balbi

After pulling the eager fan, Alex, from the audience, bassist Jack Doyle Smith descends into the crowd to make room on stage and the room erupts in gleeful frenzy over the impromptu fan service. The band, plus audience member Alex on guitar, tear into a rendition of  “Crashed Out” that fills the room with a delirious joy. When asked about his spontaneous performance, Alex said “it’s cool, I saw them in Garden Grove and didn’t get a chance to play cus Dustin didn’t see my note until after the show, so I had to come back”. 

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Photo by Isabella Balbi

Other highlights from the night’s setlist included staples like Down the Line, Generational Synthetic, and Clash the Truth, alongside fan favorites like What a Pleasure, and a shimmering, down-tempo rendition of Sleep Apnea. 

After the show, I caught the Beach Fossils boyz themselves and snapped a photo to commemorate the evening.

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Photo by Isabella Balbi

Listening to Beach Fossil’s sweet melodies in a converted ex-chapel was a Godly experience. Truly, What A Pleasure.