Concert Review: The Beths @ Union Stage (3/2/19)

The Beths
The Beths (Photo Credit: Mason Fairey)

A few months apart from our fair city must have gotten to them, because New Zealanders The Beths* stormed back to DC and mixed it up with those of us crammed into the super packed Union Stage.

After a very fine performance (replete with charming stories) by Bad Bad Hats, the Kiwi indie rock band The Beths gave the eager Union Stage fans every reason to be excited about their latest album, Future Me Hates Me. In that they played all 10 of the songs from the album (of the 12 they played overall).

They kicked off the evening (keeping us waiting in anticipation for a few minutes) with “Whatever”, about not believing the lies from someone claiming they won’t let you down again. Next, the crowd knowingly clapped along with the killer drumbeat of “You Wouldn’t Like Me”, even though the sentiment of the lyrics was certainly false. We did like them and were there in droves to prove it. (Note: In fact, I liked them at Songbyrd Music House last October so much they ranked #10 on my list of best concerts of 2018.)

The Beths are again touring in the US after a healthy stint in Europe and Canada. They didn’t chat much this time, but on their drive down from New York, they encountered ‘two cool bridges, that were exactly the same’, and wondered how such a thing might only happen in the U.S. ‘We have one good thing, let’s built another.’ But it could be a metaphor for their music as well, as the songs they’ve crafted have a certain level of sameness, but each is distinctly cool in its own way, especially live. Dear The Beths: Keep making more songs in the same vein, please. (Note: They were describing the Delaware Memorial Bridge.)

Later “Happy Unhappy” weaves up and down in tempo that hits one ‘like a hurricane’. I tend to waffle about which song is my favorite from their album, and today (and for this show) this was it.

The Beths are Liz Stokes on guitar and lead vocals, Jonathan Pearce on guitar, Benjamin Sinclair on bass, and Ivan Luketina-Johnston on drums. All the guys also sing back-up vocals. The best elements of their sound are the fuzzy guitars and melodic hooks, below Liz’s eclectic and soothing voice.

They ended the main set with “Less Than Thou”, a sprightly, almost Irish folk-inspired song that stretched on and on long after the lyrics ended.

The encores of “Future Me Hates Me” and “Uptown Girl” were both the songs they led with for their set at Songbyrd. Reversing the paradigm here, “Uptown Girl” is about the end (of a relationship) and going forth into the new world (as we were about to do shuffling out of Union Stage), even if not ready.

We didn’t want it to end but we shuffled out, humming this refrain or that. It would be fair to say I still enjoyed their performance at Songbyrd a bit more (the excitement of your first time, after all), but I’m glad they made it back to entertain us in DC, and were able to play for a bigger audience. Dear The Beths: Please come back soon.

And of course, if you don’t already own Future Me Hates Me, please use this as your excuse to make that purchase happen!

You Wouldn’t Like Me
Not Running
Warm Blood
Great No One
River Run: Lvl 1
Happy Unhappy
Little Death
Less Than Thou

Future Me Hates Me
Uptown Girl

* Liz said it was their third time in DC. I’m only familiar with this one and the Songbyrd concert in 2018, so if anyone knows where and when the third show was, please leave a comment.

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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