Concert Review (and Love Letter to): Beach House

Have you ever been inside a spaceship before? Have you ever seen the stars up close? Have you ever seen the most beautiful galaxies and nebulas in all of existence? All while being serenaded to? Well, I have, but I think I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

I don’t work for NASA and neither have I ever used the drugs necessary to take me where NASA explores. However, Beach House has always come very close. Beach House, a musical duo formed from the minds of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, has a very unique sound that combines elements of indie rock, dream pop, shoegaze, and electronic music, all punctuated by the caressing vocals of Legrand. I can’t remember exactly when I first discovered Beach House, but what will always stick in my memory is when I first purchased their album “Depression Cherry” on vinyl and listened to it for the first time. I knew that album was going to be something special from the first touch — as the album sleeve was made out of felt material, which I had never seen before. I know it’s become cliche to say albums are an “out-of-body experience,” but that is truly the only way to describe what I felt upon my first listen, and that would still be a good way to describe what I experienced on Dec. 6, 2022 at the Magnolia in El Cajon, CA, seeing Beach House perform live for the first and last time, with this being their final tour. While “out-of-body experience” may be a good way to describe the events that took place that night, it’s certainly not the only way.

For one night, the Magnolia was transformed into a spaceship, and I don’t think there really could have been another venue to capture this event — even Scally called it his favorite venue during the performance since it “feels like a ball in space.” The Magnolia features traditional theater seating that gave everyone a good view of the performance and the ability to be immersed in what was to come. Thus, we boarded the ship, Beach House were our pilots, and the audience, which was once all a multitude, became one. Although we could see the pilots, we couldn’t truly see them in detail, choosing only to demonstrate their silhouettes. At that moment, I couldn’t quite understand why they would make such a decision, as from pictures I had seen of their prior performances, the group had been visible in the past. Nonetheless, I allowed myself to be immersed in their art.

If you’ve ever seen either “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “Interstellar,” then you’ve seen either the stargate scene or the wormhole scene, both of which visually capture the indescribable nature of space travel. Now, take those two scenes, and place them in a setting where you can simply drift away and forget about all your worries. That was the journey Beach House took the audience on. The weight of life was just wholly lifted from my body and replaced by the soundwaves of songs like “Lazuli,” “Levitation,” “Lemon Glow,” and, of course, “Space Song.” Then, this feeling of freedom was accompanied by the visuals of starry nights, gradients of purples, oranges, blues, reds, and greens that all move in all directions like a lava lamp. Each song was accompanied by a different visual and color scheme, making each track feel like its own planet. Often, I’d close my eyes and could still see the colors that were on the screen and I could visualize those colors pairing together with the waves of sound and could feel them in my chest. I’d sway side to side and so would others. Beach House had successfully transported me, and everyone in attendance, to their world, and no one wanted to leave. 

After the penultimate song “Myth,” the group left the stage and was given an entire minute of ovation; everyone was clapping, screaming, and cheering. Everyone wanted just one final ride on the spaceship and were given their wishes with an encore of “Over and Over,” thus concluding my intergalactic travel.

With Beach House presumably retiring forever, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to reach the stars again in my lifetime, but at least I know I came close, and for that, I must say, thank you.Thank you for giving me what I consider to be one of the best concerts I have ever gone to and that has changed what I consider to be a concert. I will cherish the moments we spent in space together.

My friend and photographer at the show, Brandon Montenegro, had a similarly unique experience while spectating.

“Well, knowing my expectations of concerts in general, I had assumed it was going to be a venue with seats above and behind, while there was a standing pit close to the performers with lots of music and dancing,” Montenegro said. “I was expecting a slower groove from Beach House and knew it was going to be much more melodic than other concerts or artists that focus heavily on a faster pace rhythm. As I stepped into the venue and watched the concert, however, it felt much more like a show of an orchestra and a pack of people watching classical music than it was so much a concert. There was no standing pit — there was no dancing or loud cheering or yelling. Rather it was a theater filled with people sitting and attentively watching Beach House produce an array of pieces that told a story and more importantly gave emotion to the sound. I was sitting there simply stunned by the performance of it all. It wasn’t just the sound. It was the visuals, the length, the interaction that made it stand. It made me realize that concerts can be more than a show to swing your hips around and can be enjoyed in a much more classical version that we wouldn’t have thought possible since the Victorian era.”

All images courtesy of Brandon Montenegro

Revision: This article was updated at 3:19 p.m. on Dec. 30 to reflect edits from our editorial board.

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