They say that it only takes three chords to write a decent song, but that’s three more than you’ll find in any Beach Fossils tune. Instead, the Brooklyn-based quartet does things one note at a time — erecting a wall of wistful jangle-pop from simple but cleverly interwoven guitar hooks. No strumming. No solos.
Saturday evening at Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, the band performed songs drawn from its self-titled full-length LP and recent EP “What a Pleasure.” Both discs have received modest acclaim from bloggers, but Beach Fossils is still a band with a decidedly culty following, so the high turnout might have had more to do with the venue’s chill air than the band’s buzz. The smattering of faithful fans that turned up had to jockey for seating with field-tripping students and tuckered-out tourists who were curious about the concert, but also looking for a break from the sun.
They are a good band to cool down with, though. The group’s music, written by lead singer/guitarist Dustin Payseur, brims with breezy, nostalgia-soaked melodies. The songs take their cues from the tender titans of the ’80s underground — classic wimp-rockers like the Chills, the Cure and the Feelies, who weren’t afraid to coif their hair, cuff their sleeves and sing songs about their girlfriends or lack thereof. Like those groups, Beach Fossils borrow the stripped-down structures of ’60s garage rock, but jettison emotional upheaval in favor of soothing vibes. The track list on the band’s debut LP — with titles like “Lazy Day,” “Window View” and “Youth” — reads a bit like a Sandals resort brochure.
Payseur and his bandmates gently bopped around the stage, trancing out during reverb-frosted guitar breakdowns. Sometimes, things were a little too mellow: At least one audience member began to doze off as the band felt its way through a stretch of mid-tempo ballads. Finally, uring “Vacation” — one of Beach Fossils’ more up-tempo numbers — a single grinning fan jumped out of his chair to dance. More followed. Two minutes later, the front of the stage was crowded with 20-somethings, college kids and couples.
“Extra thanks to this guy,” said Payseur, pointing to the first person who tumbled down the aisle. “You are awesome for doing that.”