Beach House Roll Through Kool Haus

31 Oct

Toronto, ON

It’s been over two weeks since Beach House absolutely crushed the Kool Haus, so the fact that I’m only writing about that show now means I’m a lazy asshole.

Still capitalizing on the success of their stunning fourth LP, Bloom, the Baltimore dream-pop duo of Alex Scally (guitar) and Victoria Legrand (vocals/keyboard) were deep into their Frightened Eyes tour. Released six years after their self-titled debut, this record had served to reflect the strong grasp they have grown to maintain over their genre. Each subsequent release has seen them tinker with their formula of ghostly guitar chords, pristine organ melodies, and jarringly sad lyrics that linger in the air long after they’ve been uttered. In short, a fan that fell in love with the group after hearing their soul-baring debut has had plenty of reasons to stick around and watch the two flesh out their distinctive sound.

The night’s venue was the massive Kool Haus, whose powerful sound-system is more often than not pouring out the thumping bass favoured by the DJ’s who frequent the famed club. Even though the location itself is notoriously out of the way and rain was pouring down, the line for the doors stretched around the block as early as 7:50. For some perspective, Beach House was slated to take the stage at 9:45.

Poor Moon were the opening act and a very sizeable portion of people crowded around the stage to catch their brief set. The band is comprised of Christian Wargo, Casey Wescott, Ian Murray, and Peter Murray. A certain familial aspect was at play, as Wargo and Wescott are both a part of the wildly successful Fleet Foxes, and the Murray brothers make up The Christmas Cards. Determined to make themselves at home, the group laid burning incense along the the edge of the stage which contributed to the easygoing vibes their music already exuded. Overall, with tunes like ‘Waiting For’, the band managed to reward folks who’d turned up early. As the quartet vacated the stage Wargo revealed his frustration at the technical difficulties he’d been experiencing, “Sorry I was so distant tonight, I was just concentrating so f*cking hard on getting it right,” making the performance all the more admirable.

As the engineers carried out some last minute adjustments, a tangible air of excitement could be felt all throughout the cavernous venue. Almost 2000 people had showed up, a staggering crowd for an indie band. Then the lights were lowered to almost complete darkness and Beach House walked on stage, already lost amid the fabricated fog that shrouded the stage.  The duo, joined by drummer Daniel Franz, were wary of the spotlight as they set up shop at the back of the stage, preferring to sequester themselves over their instruments. ‘Wild’, the first song of the night,  was a soaring thrill with the band abandoning their old, metronomic kickdrum pattern in favour of booming drums that complimented Victoria’s husky voice.

Three hulking windmills flanked by a starry-lit backdrop bathed Legrand in a soft glow that doubtless made every guy in attendance fall in love with her. Her scintillating gasps on ‘Norway’ hazily resonated throughout the venue, prompting some to close their eyes and happily drift away. Upon conclusion of the song, Scally took a moment to reflect on a stroke of luck they had in Toronto before, “Not to be cheesy, but that song wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t found this keyboard at Paul’s Boutique.” That gave way to a strong cheer from the hipster audience. Not to be outdone, Legrand quipped that this was their twelfth time playing in Toronto, saying, “that’s a lot of times”.

Though Bloom has only been out since March, the band has been touring relentlessly since. This familiarity with their fresh material was evident in the way they masterfully cavorted through new jams like ‘Other People’ and ‘Lazuli’. The setlist drew primarily from recent albums, Teen Dream and Bloomwith a few deep cuts like ‘Gila’ thrown in. Scally remained sitting for the majority of the show, but his passion was felt as he could be seen writhing over his slide guitar during particularly tricky segments.

Perhaps knowing that their nostalgic music tends to force people inwards, Legrand made an effort to make the sprawling floor feel more intimate. Before ‘Silver Soul’, she let fans know, “For the next song, I want this place tight and hot.” Noticing others reluctance to get close and personal with strangers she added in a forceful tone, “I’m a woman, I know what I want!” before launching into the track. Six years as a band has seen Beach House’s ability to maintain control over an environment grow exponentially. Totally convinced of their power to keep the audience’s attention, they dived — forgive the pun — into the slow, euphoric ‘On The Sea’ with heartbreaking zeal. Scally’s guitar provided a glistening sonic backdrop for Legrand’s mournful voice that brought that made many teary-eyed.

Teen Dream standout, ‘Zebra’, was another highlight after which a particularly verbose Legrand said, “I hope you’re getting tons of phone numbers, because it’s really such a shame if you don’t leave here tonight without everybody getting at least one phone number.” She implored Scally to add to her statement with a silent glance, making it easy to notice the deep connection the two had that stretched beyond music. After a moment, Scally followed up, “Let’s make that a goal people! It doesn’t have to be sleazy, just do it. Get a friend.”

The regular set closed with ‘Myth’, a densely-layered epic that resounded triumphantly through the giant speakers with many fans helping Legrand with the singing. It was a great example of the cathartic nature of Beach House’s music and they left the stage to a roaring applause that suggested the fans were aware of how special the night was.

A minute later, they were back for an encore, which left many in disbelief: how much ecstasy could we be expected to handle? ‘Real Love’ was painfully emotive, building tension throughout spine-tingling piano chords. The meagre background almost made it seem as if Legrand was singing acapella; not for a moment did anyone doubt that her voice alone could have carried the weight of the subject matter. Though tinged with sadness, the chorus of “real love, it finds you somewhere with your back to it” along with the uplifting organ notes suggested that although Beach House is primarily a band that conveys a nostalgic yearning for the past, they retain a sense of hope. A lively rendition of the gorgeous fan-favourite, ’10 Mile Stereo’, reaffirmed this belief.

In a state of bliss, the audience watched in awe as the bad closed with ‘Irene’. Legrand thrashed around behind her keyboard, her mane of hair taking on a life of its own. Even Scally, sporting just socks, stood up and joined her in an emphatic final performance that will surely stay in the minds of all in attendance long after that night.

Read The Fader’s brilliant cover story on the band here

Set List
Wild
Walk In The Park
Norway
Gila
Other People
Lazuli
Take Care
Silver Soul
The Hours
On the Sea
New Year
Zebra
Astronaut
Wishes
Myth
Encore
Real Love/ Turtle Island
10 Mile Stereo
Irene

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