Beach House, Flock of Dimes
House of Blues
October 2, 2015
It’s been just around three years since Beach House played Houston, and the city was more than ready to have them back. Thursday was their second time playing House of Blues, it was apparent that the band had come a long way from their days in 2010 headlining Walter's On Washington or opening for Vampire Weekend at what is now Revention Music Center.
While three years isn’t really that long in between shows, it felt longer in a sense because much of popular indie music seemed to drift away from the dream-like soft rock that Beach House perfected when they put out their highly acclaimed albums Teen Dream and Bloom in 2010 and 2012, respectively. When their latest, Depression Cherry, came out this past August, it was a fine record, but at times sounded like a relic from the past when the band were at the forefront of the hype surrounding the genre and have since become a sort of staple, consistent and delivering on expectations even if they’re not likely to take anyone by surprise.
That became apparent as the band packed nearly every inch of House of Blues with a wide array of fans. The crowd was a diverse group that ranged from die-hard loyals who knew every word of the album cuts to people there out of curiosity, a desire to be seen, or because of the fact that they had nothing better to do on a Thursday night then spend $30 to yell sexist comments at the band. The people who cared showed up early, however, to where it was tough to grab a decent spot before the opener took the stage.
That was none other than Flock of Dimes, the solo project of Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner. Wasner, an excellent musician in her main band and other projects, showed that her talent translated to whatever she creates. The songs fit the atmosphere of the room, with slower, space-filled material that resembled Beach House but with roots in a more psych-filled approach. Wasner has an excellent voice, and was doing highly impressive vocal acrobatics during her set, bringing a deep sense of soul and R&B to her tunes. The songs recalled contemporaries such as Peaking Lights or Deradoorian, and Wasner showed a great amount of promise with her solo material. As she concluded her set, she played a song that she had apparently written two weeks ago, and evolved into an almost chopped and screwed performance with pitched-down vocals that made for one of the more interesting moments of the night.
By the time Beach House took the stage, the restless crowd erupted. Opening with “Levitation,” the lead track from their latest album, they eased the crowd into their serene, stately material. They mostly stood locked in position onstage, barely moving. To be fair, if any band earns the right to be still throughout their set, it’s a band like Beach House, whose music almost demands that the audience stands or sways in place rather than be too energetic. In fact the crowd for the show may have been too lively, with many audience members having a few too many drinks, attempting to get rowdy for a band where that was all but impossible to do so appropriately.
For their part, the band did an excellent job portraying their presence onstage. Dressed in all black, they stood in front of three rectangular-shaped pillars made of ceiling-high sheets that crafted a minimal yet fitting look. The light arrangement was fairly basic, starting with black and white before moving into other colors with occasional patterns or starlight, but the band relied on their music to captivate the crowd rather than offering anything too visually striking, a move that mostly paid off.
Beach House mostly stuck to tracks from Depression Cherry, a move that was entrancing as they went through songs like “Beyond Love” or “Space Song,” the latter of which evolved into an extended jam session that found the band letting loose a bit. An older song was played late in the set, but the biggest reactions came from songs from Bloom or Teen Dream. “Wild” and “Wishes” were two standouts that proved the band could have gotten away playing shows for years after their last album without the risk of putting off any fans. When Beach House played Teen Dream's “Walk in the Park,” almost the entire crowd began singing along. While the lyrics are not often the focus of a Beach House song so much as the overall mood, it was surprising and refreshing to see so many in the audience enthrallingly sing along to every word.
While the band could have appeased the diehards in the crowd by playing obscure album cuts for hours, they kept the set fairly tight, winding down after an hour by getting to the singles. “Myth,” the lead single from Bloom, drew the loudest cheers from the crowd, but the more interesting moment was when the band played the single from the newer record, “Sparks.” The closest the band has come to a shoegaze sound, the song's leading guitar riff and use of distortion showed off an intriguing new direction for the band that they expertly pulled off live. For a band whose songs often blend into each other, it was exciting to see what they were capable of.
In the time since they last came to town, Beach House have gone from rising stars to indie heavyweights. House of Blues could barely contain the crowd that had showed up, with almost every possible walkway filled with a body. The band put on a tight set, keeping the stage banter to a minimum as singer Victoria Legrand thanked the audience, won them over by telling them her mother was from Texas and apologizing for the lack of conversation, saying that sometimes they just get lost in the music. While there were a handful of obnoxious audience members who talked throughout, the majority joined Legrand in getting lost in the music as well. Beach House’s appeal is undeniable, and it would be surprising if they weren’t on a larger stage the next time they come to town.