20 Sep 2012: Stubb's Austin, TX
There are very few bands that can be considered consensus favorites across a broad spectrum of music lovers; The Beatles and Radiohead are two that come to mind. But before you get your feathers ruffled, I do not presume to compare Beach House to the these bands in terms of their “iconicism”, or “greatness”. However, in the scene of “it” bands, Beach House has managed to make music everyone seems to like and many love. And that’s saying something. Understandably then, getting tickets to the Beach House show in Austin, TX at the famous Stubb’s BBQ outdoor venue was “like getting tickets to see Tupac’s hologram”, as one friend put it.
The duo Beach House is composed of French-born lead singer Victoria Legrand and Baltimore native Alex Scally, who describe their music as “dream pop”. If you are unsure of what that sounds like, I think “hipster make-out music” may paint you a better picture. Just take my word as someone who stood in the middle of 2,100 hipsters making out, with lots of from-behind hug/swaying going on for those a little less active. Now with four studio albums, Beach House has been around long enough to have a devoted fan following, the kind that seem to bleed with passion for how much they love this music (and their companion).
With only two band members, the music consists mostly of the organ (played by Legrand), programmed drums, and a slide guitar, and would almost definitely be featured on a soundtrack if John Hughes were still alive and making movies. While all of their albums have been highly regarded by critics, it wasn’t until the third, Teen Dream, that the band experienced commercial success and amassed a greater following.
It’s well known amongst fans and critics that Beach House is phenomenal live, and my first hand account can confirm this. Legrand’s unmistakable voice is so pitch perfect, that it is hardly distinguishable from how it sounds on their albums. Isn’t it kind of frustrating when you go to see a band you love, they play your favorite song, and it doesn’t sound quite right? “They played the bridge differently.” “That’s not how that verse sounds,” “oh no, that’s not the note the emphasis goes on!” It’s like you know the song better than they do. This is not the case with Beach House. Every song they played sounded uncannily similar to the album.
At live shows, there seems to be a rising trend with bands to keep their interaction with the audience to a minimum, sometimes not even talking at all, except for maybe a “hello” or “thanks for coming.” With the rising popularity of artists such as Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine, who is extremely stoic and disengaged on stage, this may be becoming the norm. Beach House is a part of this trend. Hardly a word was spoken to the audience by either Legrand or Scally as they played through fan favorites like “Walk in the Park” and “Other People”. One of the few times anything was said, Legrand addressed the audience asking, “Are you feeling heavy and dark and full of…” and started playing “Silver Soul” without completing the question. That is, unless “full of Silver Soul” was the end of the question.
The other breach of the no-talking clause was when Scally, completely straight-faced, announced, “We’re going to play a song by Celine Dion.” Commencing into their breakout hit “Zebra”, a confused hush fell over the crowd for all of three seconds before pleased faces abounded and the swaying resumed. I’m happy to know a band that feels “dark and heavy and full of”…whatever, can still have a sense of humor.
Their latest album Bloom, which was released earlier this year, was prominent on the setlist, with only two out of the ten songs on the album left out. The first single from that album Myth (and the most popular Beach House song according to Spotify) closed the set and got the greatest reaction from the audience – there was even some singing along, something typically rare outside of concerts with an abundance of tweens and teenagers in the audience.
If you are unfamiliar with Beach House, I recommend them highly. And if you are a fan who has yet to see them live, I recommend you do so as soon as possible. Swaying, swinging, and making out are optional.
// Notes from the Road
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