Words by Phelps
Photos by Nick Balleza
May 4th laid a difficult decision before me – stay in DC for the weekend and catch new obsession Lower Dens, a band you simply cannot ignore anymore according to Joe Colly and to which I’ll attach a vigorous co-sign, or make an escape from the beltway to catch lush-pop stalwarts Beach House returning to touring in support of their beautiful fourth full length, Bloom. As the duo of Victoria Legrand (keys, vocals) and Alex Scally (guitar) piqued my interest with Devotion, commandeered my headphones with Teen Dream, and wrapped me in a strait jacket with their iTunes sessions, I packed my bags and headed to Charlottesville’s Jefferson Theater.
Beach House and their touring drummer took the stage with a minimal backdrop, just a few twelve to fifteen foot panels of wood slats emanating light throughout the set. The only element of aesthetic flash would be Legrand’s white sport coat (purchased years ago in Charlottesville) contrasting against an overall vibe that’s purposely understated and shrouded in shadows.
Opening with Bloom’s “Troublemaker,” a languid confessional on uncomfortable nights and residual love, the set continued to lean heavily on the new record with obvious crowd favorites from Teen Dream dispersed throughout. That’s not to say the new songs were underappreciated. You could tell much of the crowd were somewhat familiar with the record, especially the excellent singles Myth and Lazuli, and more than polite in their reception. Scally’s pointed Stratocaster acrobatics and Legrand’s smoky vocals and atmospheric organ ebbed, flowed, and wrapped around each other within the hooky, if not sunny, tunes. But it was Teen Dream’s Norway and Legrand’s affected, intense belting on Silver Soul that drew the sold-out crowd in closer. The latter’s soulful lament was particularly poignant when placed before New Year, a new song with a driving melody that could almost seem upbeat – or at least hopeful – in the realm of Beach House. Similarly, Wishes, an aching lullaby in the vein of Radiohead’s No Surprises, brings us into melancholic uncertainty before Take Care had the crowd practically embracing in catharsis.
And so it goes for Beach House. Their songs tend to walk the line of sadness without crossing over to depression and conversely will rarely stray from hopeful into cheerfulness. When they do, as with Take Care live, it’s special. This is a band that wants only their songs to touch you, to let the music speak for them and nothing else. Eschewing cacophonous Twitter accounts, self-promotion, or gaudy embellishments on stage, they remain at a safe distance even on tour and let you construct your own, vivid pictures from the emotional shards they toss about. If you pay attention and pick them up, their shows can be a truly visceral experience.