First off, it should be known I love basically every concert I attend. Even during the show, I’m calculating my favorite moments, categorizing my favorite songs of the night, and mentally writing the gushing review that I typically never post out of laziness. That’s just my nature. I’m a concert lover.
Secondly, I will point out I am relatively unfamiliar with Beach House and Grizzly Bear, having downloaded only 3-5 songs from each. But both are played on The Current, loved unabashedly by what I assumed to be like-minded music fans, and the Grizzly Bear buzz convinced even Jay-Z to attend a recent show, so I expected at least a decent experience.
Unfortunately, the latter factor took precedent last night, because I really hated this concert. It was a terrible show.
(I should also point out I am one of the worst music reviewers in history. An all-around amateur. Please bear with me.)
Beach House is a three-person outfit fronted by a woman with long hair hiding her face. They seem to enjoy playing sparse, atmospheric music with no energy whatsoever, which would be fine if I were wearing headphones while lying on my bed wondering what to do with my life. But, I wasn’t. I was at First Ave, watching them blandly jam 75 feet away from me. The woman plays slow, almost bluesy keyboards while the drummer thumped the bass every so often using those drumsticks with what looked like marshmallows on the end. The guitarist remained seated most of the time. They seemed to not enjoy choruses. Every song sounded exactly the same: like the first verse of Cat Power’s “Lived in Bars,” before the chorus arrives and it really gets good. There is just no payoff to any of Beach House’s songs.
After telling one of my buds in attendance that Beach House makes me sleepy, he warned me that Grizzly Bear would be more of the same. I didn’t believe him.
Alas, he was right. Grizzly Bear somehow managed to dial the energy back even further, while also turning the weirdness level to 11. They have three guitarists and a nearly comatose drummer. Each guy sings, each equally devoid of range, and many times they layer their voices, the background singers adding “oh”s and ah”s – which only succeeded in us not being able to understand a word.
Often one of the guys would pick up a flute or a clarinet or what I can only assume was a tiny accordion and jam on that in the middle of the song, and on almost every track they would slow it down to the point of playing like three cymbal taps and four baselines in the span of a minute. The guys took sparseness to a whole ‘nother level, which was a poor combination with their decision to stretch every song to, oh, 8 or so minutes. However, if they were trying to put me to sleep, kudos to them.
To be fair, besides their strange vocal choices, they did seem to be talented musicians – solid timing, expertise with a lot of instruments, seamlessly changing the tempo as a unit – but watching a slow, quiet, eccentric jam band show is basically the opposite of my idea of a good show.
There are bands that simply aren’t made for concerts. Beach House and Grizzly Bear are perfect examples of that. We felt like we’d stumbled upon a sleepy practice session, and therefore left wholly unimpressed. The lesson here is to never pay to see a Headphone Band perform live.
That, or get super baked beforehand.