Revisiting the heyday of department stores and five-and-dimes

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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