“We thought we were gonna die young and we didn’t and then we thought punk rock and skateboarding was gonna save us and it fuckin’ did.”
If anything sums up a Beach Slang show, this line is it. Grizzled punk rocker James Alex is currently touring with Quiet Slang, the soft acoustic version of the much rougher Beach Slang. Atlas caught the Arizona show at Valley Bar on Saturday.
Joined by tour manager Charlie Lowe on tracks and harmonies, Alex rasped his way through the entirety of Quiet Slang’s repertoire, sprinkling in fitting covers (The Replacements covers are always crowd favorites) from his favorite bands.
As any Beach Slang fan will tell you, they are the type of band that requires an all-or-nothing attitude; audiences either fall hard or leave confused. The Quiet Slang audience had already fallen in love and they were back for more. The crowd was subdued as befitting the acoustic nature of the show, but they were all clearly having their idea of the perfect Saturday night, swaying and singing in unison.
Alex is the perfect anti-frontman; the accidental rockstar. Normally loud, fast and punk rock sloppy, it was strange to see him without his usual battered guitar. He commanded the small basement stage, even with just a microphone and all those moves he stole from Ozzy Osbourne. He has a gritty, soulful voice that works beautifully for the rowdy punk he’s known for but translates well to the contained emotion of Quiet Slang.
Alex and Lowe have great chemistry onstage, filling the instrumental gaps with hilarious banter that kept the crowd from being too serious as the night wore on. They leaned into their stage aesthetic, setting up flowers, lights and handmade clouds, all backed by old monochrome footage of ballet dancers. In the scheme of things, this made no sense but the moving visuals balanced the tone of the show nicely.
The duo played all the songs Beach Slang is known for, including highlights like “Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas,” “Too Late to Die Young” and “Ride the Wild Haze.” Though strange to not hear his words being screamed by the audience, they were quietly singing along nonetheless.
It’s very difficult to capture the raw energy of a Beach Slang show and I find it almost harder to describe the energy of a Quiet Slang set. Alex’s lyrics speak to unfiltered passion and the kinetic forces that drive humanity through love, loss and nostalgia. It was truly special to see him harness these emotions in a different way onstage. Quiet Slang may only be a project around for a moment, but it’s moment that shouldn’t be ignored.
Quiet Slang is on the Everything Matters But No One is Listening Tour through July 14. Tickets are still available online.