The Go-Go’s have been called the most successful all-female rock band of all time, and it’s a hard accolade to argue with. As the first all-female group to write their own songs and play their own instruments to top the Billboard album charts (with their 1981 debut, Beauty and the Beat), the group made history and served as an inspiration for numerous women in music who followed. The group had their heyday in the 1980s, and has remained a foundational band in the music of the era. Although they split initially in 1985, they have reunited several times, and since the release of their fourth ablum God Bless the Go-Go’s in 2001 they have continued to tour regularly. Wanting to go out on a high note, the band announced that they would be doing their final tour in 2016.
Gracious. Enthusiastic. Humble. Joyful. Kind. Given the lo-fi “bratty b” surf-pop doo-wop swagger dripping off Best Coast’s studio albums, you’d be forgiven for not betting their live show, on the East Coast no less, would be so magnanimous. But that’d be a losing bet, as the confident yet endearingly accessible Bethany Cosentino, Bobb Bruno and Co. proved on Saturday night to be all these ways and more. And by more, we mean ambassadors of rocking out most heart-achingly hard. Dreamily hard. California hard. So hard, in fact, that this first sold-out date of their tour left a full-scale love fest, complete with hardcore making out, in its wake.
Opening the show was Nashville’s dual-femme-fronted Those Darlins, here to bring D.C. some serious surf-punk ruckus. Reminiscent of a marriage between our soon-to-be-seen headliners and The Ramones (whose tracks aired over the PA between sets), Those Darlins’ sequin-spangled fuzzy twang also ran the gamut from garage to sock hop and set the tone perfectly for the main event.
Ah, California! The Golden State might be in a financial crisis, but its natural beauty and spirit of possibility is as alive as ever. The music “scene” keeps churning out rock bands just like it did fifty years ago: from Brian Wilson first realizing that pop doesn’t have to be teenage music, to Jim Morrison putting on his first pair of leather pants and the Red Hot Chili Peppers taking everything off but their socks.
Best Coast’s short, second album contains a bright love letter to the Golden State. It’s also thematically similar to so many sophomore albums. Instead of bashing out tunes in front of friends, the band faces the pressures of semi-fame, money and what it means to be a working musician in age when selling a mere 10,000 records can put you in the top 40.