It’s funny how the fickle, churning sea of indie cred rolls. Just three years ago, Beach House opened for The Clientele at The Basement to a crowd of perhaps two dozen. On Wednesday night, they performed before a sold-out Mercy Lounge audience. They did, however, release two completely remarkable records since that set at The Basement, so The Spin ain’t trying to pass judgment. It’s just funny to see a handful of desperate-looking youngsters — who look like they’ve misplaced their fixed-gears — running about the Cannery parking lot in search of spare tickets at the very last minute. Good for Beach House.
We entered the Lounge just as Washed Out commenced their — well, we should probably say “his” — set. It was a heartening pleasure to see that Beach House had brought along their own house decorations: a glistening display of pep rally-style pompons hung from the rafters. Even the smallest display of earnest DIY ingenuity goes a long way these days. Also, the bar was remarkably non-swarmed by show-frequenting lushes. That doesn’t happen often. Must’ve been the 18-21 crowd, but we certainly aren’t complaining. More booze for us.
Washed Out’s set was much as we remembered it from the performance we caught at South by Southwest: Sonically, it’s perfectly satisfactory. It just doesn’t translate too well live … it’s all loops and mellow, thumping beats. Sort of like watching a glorified DJ set that features a lot of Ace of Base samples. We drifted back to the green room to say hello to Beach House, who were completely cordial and polite. When Washed Out went into another song, however, they genuinely mistook it for the house music and scrambled to see if it was time to load their gear onstage. It wasn’t the house music — just another dose of washy, glo-ing, chillwave smoothness.
Beach House’s stage design consisted of a set of vaguely geodesic, floating, disco-ball-esque objects that varied in size and kinda looked like sequined throw pillows. While Beach House — who performed as a three-piece — remained mostly backlit, the shimmering, suspended forms served as pretty ideal visual counterparts for singer Victoria Legrand’s spooky, creeping melodies. Legrand’s vocals were absolutely pitch-perfect, and sound was perhaps the best we’ve ever heard at Mercy Lounge. Aside from an occasional toss of Legrand’s wild mane of raven hair, the Baltimoreans remained mostly stoic throughout their set. But we didn’t mind, because — like the rest of the firmly planted crowd — we were satisfied just to hear album-quality performances of songs from Teen Dream (and a bit from Devotion). Honestly, “Zebra” is everyone’s jam, right?
Truth be told, the specter that is Legrand’s voice was so transfixing and flawless … why, it was enough to turn even The Spin’s cold, stone heart to butter. And considering the fact that the encore was over by midnight, the whole affair left us feeling all wholesome and fulfilled. Thanks a lot, Beach House. Now we have to go, like, drink some puppy blood or something to get our cred back.