Beach Slang at Black Cat

Sometimes it just takes a voice and a guitar to make magic. James Alex, Beach Slang’s frontman, had left it all on stage by the time he sang “Warpaint” to the rapt crowd: “Tonight could be the roughest of your life.” The words must have floated through Alex’s mind before stepping up to the mic at Black Cat on Tuesday.

After parting ways with their guitarist earlier that same day, Beach Slang’s fall tour—which started in D.C.—was almost an afterthought. But James Alex decided to play the set alone, with nothing more than an Epiphone, some overdrive and the vocal support of the crowd as his accompaniments.

Beach Slang

“Sometimes you’re too dumb, too in love to quit,” Alex said before the first song of the night, “so you’re stuck with me.”

Dressed in ill-fitting, maroon slacks and a patched blazer, Alex was admittedly nervous and unsure how the evening would unfold. Considering that Beach Slang is known for their heart-punching, anthemic sound, stripping down to a one-man show was a ballsy move. However, what began as James Alex performing a single song off Beach Slang's newest album, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, eventually blossomed into a rousing, intimate affair where the entire audience became a part of the band.

The crowd called out the songs, chanted lyrics and kept rhythm with claps and stomps. And James Alex played like he had a full quartet behind him. His gratitude was palpable and ardent as he tried his hand at numerous covers—playing to the halfway point on some, because that was as much as he knew.

“I want to be sure you get everything you want,” he beckoned to the audience, and they reciprocated by shouting their “Thank yous." Someone went as far as proclaiming “This is the most punk show ever.”

In many ways it was.

James Alex’s fearlessness and adherence to the credo “the show must go on” gave way to an unforgettable night that almost didn’t exist. Instead of calling off the concert, Alex picked up his guitar and did what he does best: he played his guts out.

Capitol Sound briefly caught up with James Alex after the show, while he hugged fans and personally thanked everyone who came out. When asked about his thoughts on the night, Alex had just two words: “fucking incredible.”

We couldn't agree more.

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All photos taken by Maxim Lopatnikov for Capitol Sound DC.