El Rey Theatre
Better than... that one aunt's apple pie.
On the eve of our nation's birthday a very different sort of celebration occurred at the El Rey than the one that went on yesterday. Before watching tight bodies parading up and down the beach (or pale, swelling guts if you're visiting relatives in the Midwest) and drinking to the point of complete anesthetization, we went in for a different type of collective self-medication -- the astral sounds of Beach House.
Gone are the famous pyramid set pieces from their Teen Dream tour, replaced by giant fan-like objects through which light is filtered slowly and carefully, much like the music the three people in front of them played. It was a long set, mostly uninterrupted by any commentary from the band; they played the better part of their new album Bloom and favorites like "Norway," "Zebra," and "Walk in the Park." If I enjoyed their 2011 show at the Music Box more, it's only because I like Teen Dream -- the record they were touring behind at the time -- slightly better than Bloom. But it's not comparing apples and oranges, it's just two different delicious types of apples.
To say they are darlings at this point is almost an understatement -- they sold out the El Rey weeks in advance and tickets were going for as much as $1,500 on StubHub, though it's unclear why or if anyone actually bought one at that price. And from the opening bars of "Wild," perhaps their most narrative song to date, Beach House validated those sentiments. Singer Victoria Legrand's voice is not only loud, immediately eschewing any notion that Beach House is easy listening, but deep and throaty. She wore a rainbow blouse that hung loosely and had a mop of messy hair. Guitarist Alex Scally, in a better-fitted version of a David Byrne suit, remained sitting on a stool for most of the night, not exactly charismatic but unfailingly technical.
Songs like "Lazuli" and "Other People" were chock full of their signature Baltimore melancholy, but that sickness of the soul is staved off by percussion that seems to go through you and synths that border on tinny. It's minimal, but hugely minimal. "Take Care" was a standout and they closed with "Irene," the last song on Bloom, repeating: it's a strange paradise over and over. It certainly was.
In an interview on Morning Becomes Eclectic on Monday, Legrand said that someone described their music as "large paintings with stokes or splashes of paint ... [not] about the quantity of what you're working with, it's the gesture. It could just be one splash on the wall ..." She goes on the say that these records are proof of how their minds work -- if that's true I'm curious, and a little frightened, to see what their dreams look like.
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Personal Bias: I drank the Beach House Kool-Aid some time ago.
The Crowd: A who's who of scenesters and musicians.
Random Notebook Dump: Victoria Legrand moves as if she's got spiders crawling all over her.