The best part about mining the era just before you were born for your sound is the freedom to run with the things that inspire you, disregard the things that don’t and ignore whatever baggage that seemed so substantial at the time. For Londoner Bea Kristi of Beabadoobee, who missed the ’90s by six months, that means making catchy, polished pop that borrows musical elements from the Foo Fighters, Cranberries, Smashing Pumpkins and Veruca Salt without having to be beholden to the ethos or aesthetics of a time when songs spread via MTV, radio or mixtapes, with their patchwork of life-changing tracks and forgettable filler, rather than a finely tuned algorithm feeding you a steady diet of new releases that sound exactly like what you already like.
Beabadoobee’s show at Union Transfer was only Kristi’s second in the U.S., but she and her band were heaped with adoration and presents (including a plush animal and a Guy Fieri flag) as they played most of 2020’s standout Fake It Flowers, including fan favorites “Care” and “Together.” The room was full of kids who knew every word to relative oldies like “Coffee,” released way back in 2018, and newer songs like “Cologne” and “He Gets Me So High,” from this summer’s Our Extended Play.
Turns out, putting a high gloss on post-grunge and stripping out all the boring, lo-fi bits sounds pretty great, especially paired with lyrics that are assertive, authentic and emotionally accessible. Where Gen X songwriters had to cloak their trauma in irony, Beabadoobee is empowered to express her Gen Z–specific anxiety without resorting to defensiveness. Depression is depression, but healthier coping mechanisms are a help—and don’t drain the art of its impact.
Christian Leave’s sensitive synthesis of pop, rock and even emo went down smoothly, while Blackstarkids’ rowdier blend of alt-rock bombast and hip-hop bravado found favor with the young crowd, especially “Piss Drunk Kids.”
—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich