Show Review: Beach House – Charleston, SC

Coming into this show I was a little skeptical of how Beach House’s sound was going to pan out in a live setting. Their albums are the type of music that I study to or put on when I just want some quiet music playing in the background. It can always be dangerous for bands to play this type of music live since it does not always work out. I saw Youth Lagoon, band similar to Beach House, at Hopscotch last year, and while it was good, it was lucky they were playing a half-hour set because it would have gotten a little boring if they played for as long as Beach House did on Sunday. But luckily Beach House were absolutely entertaining throughout.

I arrived at the venue around 10 (show started at 9) and there was a huge line outside of the door. I went inside and the Music Farm was PACKED. The whole time I was in the venue I was just thinking how amazing it would be if we had a venue like that in Columbia. Unfortunately I do not feel that the Music Farm actually takes advantage of itself. I rarely see good bands on the Music Farm’s website but if they could pull a crowd like that for Beach House, I’m sure that they could bring a number of other great bands. I guess there are good shows there (I saw Fitz & The Tantrums last year) just not as many as similar-sized venues such as Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC. Beach House started about fifteen minutes after I arrived which just enough time to go through the big crowd and get a good spot close to the front. Their stage setup was impressive and reminded me of Sleigh Bells’ setup, except instead of stacks of amps they had these things that were like the flats that you put crates on and inside of them were fans that manipulated the light that passed through them. Look at one of the pictures on this article and you’ll understand what I’m talking about because I really do not know how to explain it.

The three members of Beach House walked onto the stage to a screaming crowd and launched into a couple songs that were good, but maybe a little bit slow. However, as soon as they played Norway, one of the highlights from 2010’s Teen Dream, they hit their stride. The rest of the set featured a whole lot of songs from their new album Bloom that comes out next week, and let me tell you, they were real good. It sounded as if they just took what worked on Teen Dream and added to it. From album to album they seem to make everything bigger, and they have done that again. I was happy to see that the live setting also made all of their songs sound a hundred times bigger. Their sound turned from dreamy-background music to powerful, haunting tunes.  Zebra, another brilliant song from Teen Dream, was one of their last and one of their best. Their stage setup was beautifully lit the whole time, and at one point their sound was so big that the lighting became strobes and it was almost exactly like a Sleigh Bells concert.

Singer and keyboardist Victoria Legrand was pitch-perfect the whole time and most likely convinced every man in the venue that she was their one and only true love. Her voice and stage mannerism reminded me of Metric’s Emily Haines, one of the best female performers out there right now. Guitarist Alex Scalley played both the guitar and the bass, but he was playing the bass with his feet! It was not an actual bass but rather organ pedals that provided the bass sound. He also added his vocals to Legrand’s lush melodies and created a beautiful vocal dynamic. Though I would say the drummer (who looked like Sufjan Stevens) was the main contributor to the band’s sound upgrade. You would not usually think that Beach House could make you dance, but his grooves made people’s feet move and their hips gyrate (but not too much). They ended their set before the encore with Myth, the single from the band’s upcoming record, and I think that it is starting to become one of my favorite songs of the year. If I were you, I’d take a listen to it. The band barely talked during the set except for when they wished everybody “happy birthday” though I feel it would have taken away from the set if they had talked a lot. Though it was much bigger, their songs were still as mysterious as on the records, and too much jabbering would have taken away from this mystery.

All in all, it was a whole lot better than I was expecting and I could see Beach House playing a lot of festival sets in the upcoming future. One complaint I have is that the flash on iPhone is literally like someone bringing a flashlight into a concert and shining it in the band’s eyes. At one point, the lights were down and the band was playing and some fan was filming and the light literally lit up the whole venue. I do not agree with this technology. Go see Beach House!

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