The Beths have blown up recently, and it’s no surprise given the buzz around the release of their best musical work yet, debut album Future Me Hates Me. The album saw the band being noticed by Rolling Stone and Pitchfork as well as touring Australia and being a part of the massive The Others Way Festival. The band have returned to Aotearoa for a six show tour and were joined on their first of two nights at Neck of the Woods by Auckland band Miss June. It was a fast paced night of discordant punk and guitar driven power pop.
There was palpable excitement in the air as people crowded around the stage before Miss June had even begun setting up. Groovy funk music played quietly through the PA system as the lights changed from blue to orange, finally settling on blood-red.
Miss June ripped into their set with an intense enthusiasm. Tom Leggett’s hard-hitting syncopated drum beats were ever present in the band’s new material, drawing from the odd time signatures and transitions of Leggett’s other duties as drummer of Auckland post-punk band Wax Chattels. As drummer of Miss June, his crash cymbals look significantly less ripped apart. Bassist Chris Marshall’s coolly collected demeanour provided an anchoring point for the crazy energy of the band’s music. Guitarist Jun Park was an incredible performer, hair whipping around and mouth constantly open in either a grin or mouthing along to singer and guitarist Annabel Liddell’s lyrics.
Liddell herself has a captivating stage presence, the emotional intensity in the way she delivers her vocals leaves you hanging onto every line. She takes breaks from playing the guitar to grip the mic and scream – with such great lyrics as “The last thing I wanna do is hurt you…but it's on the list.”
Liddell announced that she promised a fan before the show that they would play the song Clyde the Turtle if he bought her a beer, halfway through telling the story the fan appeared from the crowd – beer in hand. During the guitar solo Park launched himself into a crowd surf, looking very much like a turtle on its back.
The band ended their set with fan-favourite Drool from their 2015 EP Matriarchy. Liddell gripped the hand of a crowd member as she towered over the audience. “How drool, you think you're so fucking cool!” Liddell shouted into an audience member’s face. He turned to his mates and grinned, not noticing the irony in how cool he thought he looked in that moment.
I would like to welcome you all, as Prime Minister of this gig...
The lights changed from blood-red to blue as The Beths set up before their set. The band kicked off with Future Me Hates Me, the eponymous track off their debut album. Half the crowd shouting the words back at lead singer and guitarist Elizabeth Stokes. And the other half ooh-ing and ah-ing in unison with guitarist Jonathan Pearce and bassist Benjamin Sinclair’s backing vocals. Katie Everingham filled in on drums for usual drummer Ivan Luketina-Johnston and did a hell of a job, especially with powerful snare rolls during the song Little Death – my personal song highlight of the set.
Halfway through the set Stokes announced, “I would like to welcome you all, as Prime Minister of this gig.” This got a big laugh, and she then listed her prime-ministerial ground rules: “One, Dancing is good. Two, jumping is good. Three, no shoving; and if someone doesn’t look like they’re having a good time, make sure they’re…yeah, having a good time.”
In-between each song, almost like a nervous mantra, the band members took turns quietly saying: “Hello, we're the Beths.” This became an established joke by the end of the night – there is a playful innocence to the band’s stage presence that is so endearing and gets you on their side before they’ve even played a note.
The Beths finished their set and walked off, but they weren’t fooling anyone. The entire crowd shouted for an encore and the band quickly re-emerged. “We had planned for an encore being on the table…” said Stokes, trailing off while grinning. They launched into Whatever, the single from their 2016 EP Warm Blood, and the crowd went positively wild. By the time the song reached its last chorus, the crowd was singing all the words louder than Stokes could manage to through her joyful laughter.
The Beths have an energy I can only describe as wholesome. There are clear influences of pop, indie and punk rock, but if this band had to be narrowed down to one vibe: The Beths = Wholesome.
Go see them on their tour before they head off to tour the US, UK and Europe – and be ready to leave the gig with your heart a few shades brighter.
Radio 13 thanks and credits Maisy McLeod-Riera for all the photographs in this article.