Monday, April 5, 2010 at 9:04 a.m.
On an unseasonably warm evening, a sold-out Cedar Cultural Center was treated to acts that one would liken more to the cold of winter. The threesome of Beach House subtly thrilled an expectedly casual audience, and even eventually coaxed listeners from their chairs as the song selection and tempo of their songs built to a nervously colorful crescendo.
Earlier in the night, an eerie feeling swept over us as we realized that they had actually set up chairs (complete with aisles), something I've never seen for a larger pop show at the Cedar. Another interesting aside was the audience; it seemed to be chock full of up-and-coming local musicians (I saw members of at least four local bands), something one would expect for a local line-up, but not as much for national acts. All these things, plus the fact that it was Easter evening, gave the whole night an overwhelmingly odd feeling, before the performers even took the stage.
The opening act, Bachelorette (the one-woman band consisting of Annabel Alpers of New Zealand), was an ideal preparation for Beach House. A self-proclaimed "home recording tinkerer," Bachelorette's live recorded vocal loops, laptop mixing, and retro, Casio-tone, electronic driven art-rock was almost more fun to watch her create on stage than what ended up being the final product. Her stage set-up was simple, yet highlighted by rave-y projections on the screen behind her, which kept the audience's attention and enhanced the Euro beats that propelled her unique sound.
After the brief intermission, the crowd grew pensive, awaiting the night's headliner. As the last few stragglers made their way to the now few unoccupied chairs and dark corners of the room, the band opened the evening with a green glow and some surprising stage ornaments in tow.
Backing the entire band were a varying array of shimmering octahedrons, covered in glimmering parade float fringe. They seemed to be nothing more than a pleasant distraction at first, but after a few songs, they began to spin, change colors and, after a while of watching this happen, they even appeared to hover in place, all in time with the music. I thought the glowing pyramid and minimal lighting they used for their last tour through with Grizzly Bear was odd -- this was about as close one could get to being on drugs without needing them.
Regardless, Beach House pieced together a fine set of their dreamy, reverb laden baroque-pop, focusing their energies mostly on their latest release Teen Dream, arguably their most accessible album to date. While a few tunes from their more languid and darker first two albums were scattered amidst the new material, all of it seemed more than welcome to the ever more entranced crowd. A few songs into the set, guitarist Alex Scally lamented that "Easter's always hard," perhaps alluding to the relatively quiet audience response to that point. Further bothered by the quiet he added "Tonight's a real rager for us..." then again later said, "I can feel your fingers dancing inside your pants pockets." Lead singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand added "I tried to get rid of the chairs." Two songs later, the band challenged the audience to take leave of their seats, and all complied immediately.
Prior to the conclusion of the show, the band's obviously intended highlight of the evening was a stellar and never replicated energy on their recent single "Zebra." The spinning and shinning ornaments were now each their own color and the band collectively put forth their most engaging tune of the evening. While it may have been more appreciated to build this energy throughout the night, bringing each song to a fever pitch before doing it all over again each song, I didn't see anyone complaining that this was not the case. And I'm sure that more than a few, who no doubt wobbled home in a dream-like trance, still have the chorus of "Zebra" running though their mind, like so many beautiful black and white horses.