The Beths
Photo: Frances Carter / Pitch Perfect PR

The Beths Rock Out at the Fillmore With Infectious Expertise

Indie rockers the Beths have had a most excellent visit to San Francisco, and fans can only hope they’ll be back sooner than later.

It’s a Saturday night at the famous Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco here on 18th March, and tonight’s show with the Beths is completely sold out. The indie power pop rockers from New Zealand are generating some serious buzz as they tour behind their third album, 2022’s Expert in a Dying Field. Performing at last year’s Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park surely helped win over some new local fans, and so the place is packed and ready to rock.

The quartet has demonstrated some strong expertise in the melodic fuzzy guitar-driven sound that was popularized in the mid-1990s but which has waned a bit in the 21st century, so it’s great to hear a young rock ‘n’ roll band bringing those vibrant sounds back. The Beths received what might seem like some unlikely support on their rise in the music biz with some key financial support from NZ on Air for studio recording and music videos, as well as from the New Zealand Music Commission for international touring. New Zealand provides public arts funding for promising rock bands?! What a refreshing concept in this age of increasing global austerity, where arts programs have been on the chopping block here in the so-called Land of the Brave and Free.

The Beths burst onto the American music scene in 2018 with their debut album Future Me Hates Me, featuring a title track that is easily one of the most infectious pieces of ear candy to come across the airwaves in recent years. Charming singer/songwriter/guitarist Elizabeth Stokes has demonstrated a clear talent for cranking out memorable catchy hooks, and the rock ‘n’ roll world can always use more of those.

As the lights go down, an instrumental synth version of “Future Me Hates Me” comes across the PA, suggesting the Beths will open with their most well-known song. And so it is as Stokes and the band blast through the melodic gem about future heartbreak to get the show off to a rousing start. The only downside here is that the song is over in about four minutes, but alas, The Beths are not a jam band (even though this highly memorable tune could surely launch some great jams.) 

“Knees Deep” from Expert in a Dying Field is a catchy melodic rocker too, and listening to the Beths’ catalog suggests that Stokes cranks out ear candy like this for breakfast. The fuzzy guitars sound delightful, with Stokes and guitarist Jonathan Pearce both putting classic Fender tube amps to solid use. “Happy Unhappy” from the first album features a tight groove from bassist Benjamin Sinclair and drummer Tristan Deck, providing the foundation for more fuzzy melodic goodness. Pearce steps up here with a hot guitar solo to drive the energy higher, suggesting that The Beths can indeed stretch out a little when so moved. “A Passing Rain” is another winner from the new album, as the guitarists continue throwing down crunchy chord progressions that makes it feel like the Beths could have time traveled from the 1990s.

“Dying to Believe” from their 2020 sophomore album Jump Rope Gazers keeps things rocking nicely, a tune that has a charming video based around a band tutorial on “How to Be the Beths” that features tips like Stokes writing “The song already exists inside of you” on a whiteboard. This seems like an appealing message for would-be songwriters from someone who has shown a strong talent for tapping the inner muse. It’s got to be a lot of fun to be in the Beths, with how many melodic rockers the band has and making fun videos like this one. 

The Beths take a moment to wish bassist Ben Sinclair a happy birthday, and he relates how they all went to visit “The Rock” earlier in the day, a nod to the legendary Alcatraz Island that remains a popular tourist attraction in San Francisco. And why not, with memorable films like Clint Eastwood’s ”Escape from Alcatraz” and the timeless Nic Cage/Sean Connery 1990s blockbuster that features the greatest car chase in San Francisco movie history. Sinclair also makes note of his daily tour blog,, with posts featuring what the bassist eats for breakfast while on tour as well as some blog notes on the band’s tourist excursions such as the ferry ride to Alcatraz and “trying to find the spots where Ed Harris hid the VX Gas rockets” in Michael Bay’s The Rock.

“Head in the Clouds” is an upbeat gem from Expert in a Dying Field, with Stokes singing of waiting for a sign at the scene of the crime due to someone who has their head in the clouds while their soul is in the dirt. There’s also some kind of theme on the album involving the fish on the cover, which is brought to larger-than-life reality here on stage as a giant prop behind Stokes. What theme the fish represents seems to remain nebulous, though. 

The Beths
Photo: Frances Carter / Pitch Perfect PR

The raucous “Uptown Girl” from the first album really cranks up the party vibe as Stokes sings of how she’s going to go out tonight and drink the whole town dry. This gives way to the glorious hooks of “When You Know You Know”, quite possibly the band’s most infectious number since “Future Me Hates Me”. The Beths really catch a great groove here as Stokes leads the way with her melodic vocal over the ultra-catchy chorus and backing harmonies from the boys in the group as they all rock out for one of the evening’s peak moments. It’s one of those wonderful songs where the sonic goodness envelops the entire room as bodies are moved to groove to the rocking harmonics and triumphant vibe of a band hitting on all cylinders.

The Beths keep the energy flowing in a big way with the upbeat grungy fuzz of “I’m Not Getting Excited”, an oxymoron of a title for such a furiously rocking song with a great psychedelic lead guitar break. The band continues rocking out on “Silence is Golden”, with Sinclair throwing down some juicy lead bass riffs and Pearce ripping one of his wildest guitar solos of the night. The set seems to be steaming toward a finish now, and so it is as they utilize the zeitgeisty title track from Expert in a Dying Field to bring the set to a climactic conclusion. It’s one of the Beths’ quintessential melodic rockers, seemingly inspired by an older friend or family member who can fix high-fidelity vintage stereos (as depicted in another of the band’s creative videos.)

Stokes employs an acoustic guitar for the first encore, “You Are a Beam of Light”, a beautiful shimmering tune that works as a showcase for her softer angelic side. Then the Beths crank it back up on “Little Death”, a romantic rocker that closes out the show with a flourish. 

The Beths have had a most excellent visit to San Francisco, and fans can only hope they’ll be back sooner than later.