In Bloom: Beach House at the Pabst Theater » Urban Milwaukee
Sahan Jayasuriya
In Bloom

Beach House at the Pabst Theater

Beach House brought their washed out dream pop to the Pabst Theater on Wednesday evening, playing to a nearly packed house.

By - Oct 11th, 2012 04:41 pm
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Beach House live at the Pabst Theater. All photos: Adam Miszewski.

In the last few years, it has become a trend in the world of indie rock to drown music in reverb and tag it as “dream pop”. The problem here is that many of these acts use a tidal wave of reverb to mask their undeveloped songwriting and limited vocal abilities. This has resulted in an overflow of third-rate Jesus & Mary Chain rip offs, “By My Baby” intros and all. Because of this overflow, unfortunately, some great acts (like The Raveonettes, for example, who are a one trick pony with one hell of a trick) sometimes get lost in the shuffle, drowning in the reverb of their less talented contemporaries.

Thankfully, quality songwriting sometimes shines brightly through the echo-y haze, and Baltimore’s Beach House has succeeded at this for the past few years. While others use reverb as a crutch, Beach House simply use it to enhance their already dreamy songwriting. While others merely rip off groups like the Cocteau Twins and Slowdive, Beach House use those references as a foundation, building more original and modern sounds on top of them. And while others can’t seem to put on a decent live show, Beach House most certainly can, and their performance at the Pabst Theater on Wednesday night was no exception.

Beach House singer and keyboard player Victoria Legrand

The evening began with a performance from fellow Sub Pop artists Poor Moon. The group features Casey Wescott and Christian Wargo from Fleet Foxes, and while similar in their love of vocal harmony, Poor Moon’s influences are much less folk and much more pop, sounding something like if Fleet Foxes spent a summer listening to the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. Their brand of sunny and upbeat indie pop was a great way to kick off the evening.

Beach House took the stage soon after, performing in front of four large fan boxes and a twinkling backdrop of lights. They opened their set with “Wild”, the second track off of their latest album Bloom, released earlier this year. Singer Victoria Legrand’s gorgeous and breathy voice was accompanied by an undercurrent of droning snyths, Alex Scally’s shimmering guitar chords, and a tight Casio styled keyboard loop. They followed up with “Walk In the Park” from their 2010 album Teen Dream. Seconds into the song’s Suicide-esque drum loop, I realized that Beach House aren’t as good live as they are on record; they’re better.

Since adding a live drummer to the lineup in 2010 to handle the more percussion-heavy songs on Teen Dream, Beach House has remained a trio. Much like with their use of reverb, Beach House’s addition of a drummer only enhances the performance, with drummer Daniel Franz accompanying the songs with modesty and taste. Even on the the few tracks from the group’s second album Devotion, like “Heart of Chambers”, Franz accompanied them so well that I completely forgot of his absence in the song’s recorded form.

They continued on, primarily drawing from Teen Dream and Bloom. Highlights included the airy “Other People”, Teen Dream opener “Zebra”, and the older fan favorite “Turtle Island”. After their performance of “10 Mile Stereo”, the band left the stage, eventually returning to perform a two song encore. “Real Love” off of Teen Dream was well received by the audience, and the set closer “Irene” found the band at their most energetic, with Legrand whipping her hair around and thrashing about. Earlier in the set, Legrand spoke to the audience. “You guys are putting the other audiences on this tour to shame”, she said. Normally I would dismiss this as pandering, but the band’s performance coupled with the audience’s enthusiasm and the gorgeous acoustics of the Pabst truly made for a great performance. There’s a depth in their songwriting that is absent in that of their many contemporaries, and if Wednesday’s performance was any indication, Beach House’s talent will continue to shine through the haze, standing apart as they always have.

Categories: Life & Leisure, Rock

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