Best Coast opened their set at Hype Hotel Wednesday night (March 18) with a roar: three guitars, all pitching out thick, greasy black waves of sound, transforming "Last Year" from 2012's The Only Place from sad-eyed ballad into a grim, grinding stoner-grunge stomper. It was merciless and hypnotic and, as it turned out, a bit of a fake-out for SXSW-goers. From there, the group sprinted through a set of tightly-wound pop-punk that was both louder and brighter than the group has ever sounded.

What that opening gambit did announce, though, was the band's newfound sense of confidence. Throughout their brief set (truncated early by the venue's tight schedule) they presented themselves as a bruising, guitar-heavy dynamo, taking ample cues from pop-punk without sounding either trite or cloying. That self-assurance was most confident in the songs from their forthcoming California Nights. "Heaven Sent" came off like a revved-up Bangles song, with a bounding vocal melody and a big, nasty guitar solo splitting the song in half. And the title track was an exercise in woozy psychedelia, a slow-burning number drowned in waves of hallucinogenic guitars, as tripped out and dizzying as a peyote trip at Big Sur.

The rest of the set boosted songs from the band's back catalog with ample amounts of power and distortion. "Crazy For You" bristled with new life, it's loop-de-looping vocal pitched around by the gang of guitars. "The Only Place," which is pristine and gleaming on record became as fizzy and explosive as a shook orange soda, its chorus effortless and exuberant.

Throughout, the band anchored themselves in the songs' pop roots, but left just enough grain in the gears to keep them sounding fanged and restless. In the end, it wasn't as much a reinvention as a reassertion, a band figuring out who they're supposed to be and seizing it with both hands.

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