The hype machine can curse a band’s career before it’s even taken off. Spoil people with a critically acclaimed delight of a debut and that difficult second outing is an inevitable disappointment (let’s call it the Interpol syndrome). Beach House have been praised in a few, but arguably the right, circles. Are they already doomed?
High expectations for this evening abound for two reasons. Beach House have released one of the most stunning records of the past 12 months in their self-titled debut, with its languid tempos and Letitia Sadier-esque vocals. But this also marks the Baltimore duo’s first ever European appearance and, as the audience crams into the somewhat limited space offered, we’re expecting something very special indeed.
After a brief support slot from the Low influenced Sian Alice Group, our headliners appear to set up their equipment. The normal pre-gig ritual establishes itself and we secure a place near the front and wait. We continue to wait for over an hour and the more time goes on, the less likely it seems anything will be happening. It appears that vocalist Victoria Legrand’s keyboard is having technical difficulties of the most dire kind – it refused to switch on.
Everything in the band’s power is done to try to rectify this. Following several failed ‘solutions’ (with a visibly stressed Legrand watching on in disbelief), the duo appear defeated and inform us that this will not be a normal gig. They look devastated. Legrand emphasises how this was supposed to be ‘the big London show’ and how she now feels like a failure.
By this stage, they’re facing a spacious number of listeners and a stripped-down set becomes the only answer. The drum machine and guitarist Alex Scally’s slide guitar still prove to be a gentle, satisfying experience but Legrand already looks beaten. Her head facing the floor and fighting back tears, she pulls through Saltwater and Apple Orchard with considerate enthusiasm from the punters that remain. But she seems relieved when she admits that they’ve played all they realistically can in the circumstances.
As she leaves us, she promises guestlist places to anyone that wants one for the Bella Union birthday party later that week and apologises profusely. Someone buys her a shot and attempts to reassure her, as we toast to a frustrating but certainly unique evening.