Beach House is a departure from the norm for a Betty and Kora article. For those unfamiliar: their music (centered around organ, guitar and vocals) is better suited for a day of self-reflection or hanging with close friends than a raging Caturday night dance party. For many, Victoria LeGrand’s evocative voice is the initial draw, but the thoughtful songwriting is what keeps fans coming back.
Well into their career after releasing 4 albums spanning 8 years, Beach House is now a mainstay of the summer festival circuit. Their autumn tour consists solely of Canadian cities, with the exception of the first stop in Anchorage, AK. Fans in smaller destinations like Nelson, Thunder Bay, Fredericton and Halifax will no doubt be delighted to be visited by such a talented and respected band.
I had the privilege of catching the second of two sold-out concerts at Venue Nightclub in Vancouver last week. I arrived with my t3i in tow, expecting to photograph the first song or two before abandoning it at coat check. I quickly learned that the previous night’s show had been designated as the more media-friendly of the two. Having been unable to attend, I had missed my chance to photograph the band. I was totally impressed by the respectful nature of Venue’s team, surrendering my camera without hesitation. Honestly, it was a weight off my shoulders (figuratively and literally), and enabled me to settle in and enjoy the music that much quicker. SPOILER ALERT: I couldn’t resist snapping a few pics on my sub-par camera phone (sorry, guys!).
Whereas a lot of bands start out their sets with a banger (or two) to get the crowd excited before playing softer songs, Beach House has a different approach. Alex Scally and Victoria LeGrand take the stage as a duo, slowly building atmosphere before introducing new friends/instruments into the mix. They were several songs along before their drummer appeared. It wasn’t necessary, but he definitely added something incredible to the sound (as did each subsequent member). The energy was contagious, growing with each song. Soft swaying evolved into full-on dancing. We could see the band was having fun, even before Victoria made it official by saying so over the microphone.
Admittedly, Venue is not my favorite spot to see a live band in Vancouver. It doesn’t have Fortune’s sound system or the Commodore’s layout. None of that mattered while Beach House was onstage; the performance looked and sounded incredible. Tim and John, the individuals responsible for sound and lighting, deserve to be commended. The band remained visible enough to see Victoria’s fingers dance across the keys like a ballet dancer, yet shrouded in mysticism when it counted (complimenting the band’s aesthetic perfectly). At times, it almost feels as if you’re having your fortune told, by people who really know what they’re doing. “I’ll be there for you. If you ask me to. In a week or two.” Isn’t that always the way?
What’s really interesting about Beach House is their focus on the music and nothing else. They avoid using the media as an outlet except for cases where it actually makes sense. They present themselves onstage in a humble, respectful manner, and don’t over-stimulate the audience with any sort of projected visuals. I love how Victoria regularly responds to comments from the crowd, but the moment someone calls out “You’re beautiful!” she goes straight for a drink of water and creates a beautifully awkward silence. Beach House exudes calmness and maturity that can only come from confidence earned, not self-professed. Knowing that they enjoy smaller, more intimate crowds, this Canadian tour could end up being one of their best.
WORDS & COVER PHOTO: The Classy Mess