The way bands make money has shifted dramatically over the last decade. Due to the ubiquitous presence of streaming services, album sales are no longer the best way to make a buck. Artists now have to hit the road—and hit it hard—if they want to make a living playing music. Take a look at the ever-growing list of music festivals, and you’ll find their rosters boast many of the same bands as they make pit stops at all the major festivals.
The reliance on touring to make money has caused some bands to toe the line at their shows, lest they gain a reputation for unruliness and lose precious booking slots. Social media guarantees that one off night in the middle of nowhere will be seen by the rest of the world the next day. Gone are the days when bands like The Replacements gained mythic reputations for their unpredictable live shows, when the audience never knew if they would see the greatest show of their lives or a group of drunks falling all over themselves.
Enter Beach Slang, a punk outfit fronted by 40-year-old lifer James Alex that puts on a show which hails back to the chaotic acts of punk’s heyday. Just two weeks ago, the Philly-based foursome appeared to have broken up mid-set at a particularly fraught gig in Salt Lake City. Alex ended the set by telling the crowd, “We were Beach Slang, thank you.” (Less than 24 hours later, Alex issued a statement: “If You’re Still In, We Are,” in which he fittingly referenced The Replacements biography Trouble Boys.) Their shows are a runaway train that’s always dangerously close to derailing, and that’s what makes them one of the best live acts going.
When the band isn’t doing their best Replacements impression—and even when they are—their shows make you a believer in the tenets of punk music. With larger-than-life guitar riffs and lyrics meant to be shouted in unison, Beach Slang’s songs create a sense of unity and togetherness when played live. After spending a life in the music industry, Alex has come to the conclusion that there is no greater meaning, there can be real happiness in just simply playing the music you love. On the aptly titled “Too Late to Die Young,” he sings, There’s honesty / In these neon lights / We’re animals / Drunk and alive / I swear right now, I’m alright.
When Beach Slang comes to the Sinclair on May 19, they’ll give you a show that’s unlike any you’ve seen lately. The crowd will be rowdy, the band will be thrashing around onstage and there will be moments of general mayhem. Everyone will be drunk, and you’ll wish it never ended.