Editor's note: This review was written and the Beths' set happened at Scoot Inn before news of the mosques massacres.
Thursday evening at SXSW 2019, one of Austin's oldest bars welcomed one of the festival's hottest acts. New Zealand indie-rockers The Beths played to an eager (and still-arriving) crowd at Scoot Inn.
“Thank you all for being punctual,” joked singer-guitarist Elizabeth Stokes.
Set opener “Future Me Hates Me,” their debut LP's first single, could basically be the soundtrack of SXSW morning-afters with its refrain of “future heartbreak, future headaches… future cold shakes from stupid mistakes.” (Granted it's really about regretting falling in love, but it could just as well be about thinking mystery shots on Sixth Street before calling it a night was a good idea.)
Making summery guitar-driven pop music should be simple enough in theory. Any band can play some power chords and clap along to them while singing “ohh, ohh” harmonies. But The Beths succeed where others belly flop. Credit the all-hands-on-deck vocal harmonies, solid and tight songwriting, or the charming buds-being-buds chop-busting banter on display. Or maybe credit Stokes’ vocals, maintaining a pinch of that New Zealand accent even in singing and staying spot on-key where other slackery acts would be content with close enough. Or maybe it's their undeniable likability.
“We love playing at venues near train lines,” Stokes said noting the line near the venue before asking that if a train passed by the Scoot Inn could a fan capture it and the band in a single video — for their friends back home really into trains. “But we're a cool rock band. We don't care about dumb trains.”
And though she jokes, The Beths are cool in that nicest person-you-know way. Cool like Keds and T-shirts tucked into jeans, with each member looking like they'd give you a hug if you were having a bad day. But not so cool to be immune to self doubt, with lyrics like “you wouldn't like me if you saw what was inside me”
The Beths play three more SXSW shows Friday before moving on. Future you will like you for checking them out.