I have a curious relationship with the band Beach House. When i first heard their album Devotion, i loved it. Then i went to see them in concert, and the music came across even better in a darkened, packed EARL. After that, the album began to grate on my nerves, the sameness of the recorded versions became droll.
This year they released a new LP, Teen Dream and again i was wowed by their dreamy tunes of wandering guitar and intense yet mopey vocals. So when they came back to The EARL, i rushed to get a ticket. This was a good idea on my part, as this show was sold out by early March. No other Minion had such keen foresight, so i had to trek to The EARL by myself to see this show…
I got there just before 9:30, and promptly on the half hour the first act took the stage. This was the artist Washed Out, who is from Perry, GA. That’s just south of the bustling metropolis of Warner Robins, on the highway between Macon and Florida. The vast central wasteland of our state.
Now, what type of music would you think a young man from Perry, GA would make? Earnest signer-songwriter? Alt.country, light on the alt? Stoner hard rock?
How about droning, abstract electronic dance music that mixed influences from Seefeel, early 90s proto-trance act Ultramarine, Howard Jones, and Erasure? Well, that is what Washed Out sounded like.
Washed Out. Or maybe just slightly blurry...
The performance consisted of one tall guy standing behind a table of electronics. He twisted knobs and clicked a laptop keyboard, all the while dancing in a vaguely arrhythmic fashion while singing long droning abstract sounds into the microphone. This is what Atlas Sound might have been like if Bradford Cox was a bigger fan of Depeche Mode than of Stereolab.
Washed Out in knob-twiddling action.
Some of the songs were strange concoctions of beats and drones, while others were positively dancey. He must have a “hit”, since when he started one song in the middle of the set, all the young people smooshed into the crowd with me got excited and starting dancing and singing along. This was not my favorite of the tunes he did, but whatever.
Washed Out is confused by the laptop display.
On the whole, not bad. The middle of the set seemed to contain all the dancefloor numbers, and those were less interesting to me. But he started out with a few pieces that would not have been out of place on Quique, segued into something that really reminded me of Ultramarine’s Saratoga, and ended with a song that stole the beat and general melody from Sometimes by Erasure.
Washed Out was done performing in 30 minutes. Then he took ten minutes to dissemble his table of gear and pack it away. Then Beach House’s roadie moved their already assembled gear up and into place. Then we waited.
About 45 minutes after Washed Out left the stage, the mood in the crowd turned sour. A guy behind me kept yelling, “Start already!” in the hopes that the band could hear him in whatever back room they were ensconced. People, in general, were packed in tight and annoyed at standing around doing nothing for that long. What was up with the wait?
The stage was decorated with this octogons
covered in reflective shiny plastic.
Well, they finally came out, and started with Zebra off of Team Dream. And it sounded amazing. The keyboards were a low drone, Alex Scally’s guitar was light and all over the place, the drumming slow and competent, and Victoria Legrand’s voice was deep and lovely.
Beach House in action.
Seriously – if you like their recorded work, you will find that it is even better live. There is an immediacy that they impart to their performances, something which isn’t always there with this type of dream pop.
They played most, if not all, of the new record. They hit some highlights from Devotion including a smoking version of Gila, Scally’s guitar whining those long slow notes that i associate with cowboy jazz, while Legrand stuttered the vocals and flailed her hair around.
Ms. Legrand, with crazy hair.
One thing that i discovered during this show that i did not know before: Scally has some sort of foot keyboard that he plays while also playing guitar. The foot keyboard creates a light melody that compliments Legrand’s droning organ. I had thought that she was playing both pieces, but as this time i was wedged in a corner between sweating over-hormoned teenagers i was able to see him play this other instrument. Fascinating to think that he is doing two different parts of the song at the same time!
They played for about an hour, and it was good. Another really nice set. If you have the chance, go and see them. Just be patient though…