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August 8, 2009

Concert review: Beach House and Celebration at the Metro Gallery

It's a good thing they started late.

At 10 p.m. -- the time the music was supposed to start -- the line stretched south on Charles Street and spilled around the corner onto West Lanvale Street. The show was held in the parking lot a couple doors down from the Metro Gallery (1700 N. Charles St.), the same space where they threw Rufustival not too long ago. And last night, that parking lot was packed full of people ...

The sights: Hipsters, art students, indie kids, oh my.

The smells: Cigarette smoke and the sharp musk of body odor. At one point, I swear I caught a whiff of insect repellent, too.

Both Beach House and Celebration are staples on the local music scene. Beach House has a larger following, but since their music is more ambient, it made sense for them to go first. They took the stage at 10:20 p.m.

Officially, Beach House is the duo of guitarist Alex Scally and singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand, but last night, they were also joined by a percussionist. On their albums, they use a drum machine, but the addition of the percussionist added some weight to the beats.

Legrand wore what appeared to be a black and white jumpsuit, topped by a black jacket with shoulder pads and white polka dots. Her haunting voice was drenched in echo and reverb, which gave the plodding psychedelic songs an otherworldly quality. It seemed almost fitting that when they started, the sky was pitch black, except for one star.

In addition to favorites such as "Gila" and "Heart of Chambers," Beach House played a bunch of new tunes. I'd say close to half their nine-song set was new material. Scally said they just cut a record, which I hope sees the light of day later this year. I was a little disappointed they didn't play the single "Used To Be," but hopefully that's on the forthcoming album.

Beach House's nine-song set (at least, I counted nine songs -- I could be off by one or two) was a good length. Any more, and the songs would have began to blend together and my eyes would have glazed over.

At 11:25 p.m., singer Katrina Ford and the rest of Celebration took the stage.

"It's such an awesome summer night," Ford said. She was right, it was cool with a wisp of a breeze -- a perfect night for an outdoor show.

The show's organizers built a large white pyramid-shaped projection screen at the back of the stage, onto which they projected images of hot air balloons. But I thought the handful of telephone poles back behind the stage were just as appropriate.

On paper, Celebration is the trio of Ford, drummer David Bergander and keyboardist/guitarist/pedal bassist Sean Antanaitis. But last night, the group doubled in size -- they were joined by another keyboardist, bassist and percussionist.

All together, they unleashed a mix of swirling synths and pounding drums. Sporting a white dress, Ford strutted around the stage, whooping, crooning and charming her way through their set. We heard "Evergreen" and a few of the other tracks from their full length, "The Modern Tribe," but Celebration also stuffed their set with new material.

It's clear the folks in Celebration want you to dance. But often, instead of settling into a straight-forward groove, they play complex beats that are pretty tricky to dance to. That was my only complaint with their set.

When Celebration finished, Ford told the crowd to stick around for something surprising, and sure enough, at 12:25, both Beach House and Celebration took the stage and played "Billie Jean." It was an awesome send-off from a stellar night of live music on an enchanting summer evening.

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:39 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Concert reviews


But of course you can't get through this without your predictable hipster/body odor comment. Why not just stay at your beloved sports bars and Madonna and Britney concerts? "Plastic people - Oh, Baby, now you're such a drag..."

we all gotta live .... coz this world is DEAD

you're embarrassing.

the trust funders strike back! wahh

Yo, we've got the audio from both sets up at, thanks to the Baltimore Taper!

To be honest, I sometimes agree with Sam's point with those comments. It just seems that this same point is made over and over and over. Sam, we get it - hipsters are idiots who smell bad. All I'm saying is that if they bother you so damn much maybe you'd be happier staying home and listening to CDs of bands that are popular with that demographic, not actually mingling with the riff-raff. Hipster types annoy me sometimes too, as do frat boys, hippies, Republicans, Democrats, and anyone else who happens to be annoying. Any group of people is going to have some annoying folks in the mix, and possibly having to deal with them is part of the price of leaving the house - especially when alcohol is involved. I sound like a kindergarten teacher here. Do I really need to explain that constantly making sweeping generalizations and judgements about entire "types" of people is not real productive? It reflects poorly on you, even if maybe I am an embarrassing whiner sometimes. Grow up, kids.

Blob, I think it's important to note the audience at a show, whether it be age groups or descriptions of fans.

As a reporter, I wasn't passing judgment on the crowd -- just describing them. They were mostly hipsters, indie kids, art students, scenesters, other members of the local music community, and a good deal of them stunk. At no point did I call any of them "idiots" or "annoying."

I remember about a year ago, then pop music critic Rashod Ollison went to see Beach House for the first time -- at Sonar's club stage. He couldn't get over how badly the audience smelled.

"Do they bathe?," he asked me.

I still chuckle about that. The show was in Sonar's small-ish Club Stage, which I'm sure was pretty ripe.

On Friday, I did think it was pretty funny when someone lobbed a bag of Funions through the air, and it hit one of the guys in front of me. You never expect Funions.

I was at the show and wanted to say thanks for the heads up Sam! It was just what I needed to start the weekend.

To some of the others, Sam was dead on about the audience. I'm not all for scene bashing or anything, but the crowd was exactly as he described in sight and smells (the smell part of it was quite noticable, it's the first thing my wife noticed). I don't think Sam was being judgmental, nor am I. Everyone has a lifestyle they like and I think it's an awesome experience when for two hours you're all there to appreciate great music in your own ways.

Thanks for posting that link too Greg.

I was surprised -- Rashod didn't comment on the smell. The show was held in Sonar's club space, which was packed. And any time you crowd a bunch of hipsters into a small space like that, the smell is overpowering.

Rocket to Venus (3360 Chesnut Ave.) has an attitude that, in my opinion, makes it the antithesis of a neighborhood bar ...
Same goes for Golden West Cafe (1105 W. 36th St.), Holy Frijoles (908 W. 36th St.), etc. I like the down-home vibe of places like Nutty Pub (3520 Chestnut Ave.) and Frazier's on the Avenue (919 W. 36th St.).

Every time I've been there, the service has been terrible and the place has been packed with hipsters -- not exactly the most inviting of crowds, if you ask me.

We Can't Stand Hipsters But We Keep Coming Back
Club Charles

And quite frankly, I don't think it's right to generalize or stereotype if you're being mean about it. I try really hard to keep Midnight Sun hate-free. I just enjoy making fun of the stereotypes. 

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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