Hollywood, CA- I don’t usually go to shows like this.
I’m used to arriving stupidly early in order to get a good spot in the sardine can known as the front. As close as I can possibly get to the barrier, ensuring bruises on my hips the next day. Sweat running down my back and my hair forming dreadlocks due to people rubbing up against it all night. Spilling an overpriced drink as I gracelessly danced into unsuspecting spectators. Sing/screaming along to every song and polarizing the rest of the people in front, who are probably either pissed off or endeared by me.
The Hollywood Bowl is not that kind of place. They let you bring cheese and crackers. It’s BYOB. It’s stadium seating. Everyone has their own little yuppie bubble. And you know what? I dug it. I felt like a real life grown up, going to a grown up show. I didn’t have to worry about my glasses breaking at all, or holding onto at least five different people’s keys for once. This was a mellow experience to savor rather than chug– a wine versus a whiskey. Truth be told, I still felt especially sneaky getting past security with a “potential weapon” corkscrew, even though I’m sure they saw it and definitely didn’t care.
Everyone at the Bowl that night was dressed to the nines. It was like stepping into a chic restaurant in an exclusive, affluent Malibu-type area: women casting shade under ironically wide brimmed hats, scattered flower crowns dotting the stadium, and flannel in a heaping abundance. I’m not even going to touch on the surplus of beards. It became blatantly obvious almost immediately this was a show people wanted to be seen at. Which is totally cool, I’m all about feelin’ thyself. But please, for the love of whatever, turn off your light-up flower crown while the show is in progress.
We settled in just as Beach House started. The lights dimmed to almost total darkness, and I experienced a lingering sense of mischief as I pulled a bottle of two-buck chuck out of my Trader Joe’s bag (sponsor me, Charles Shaw). As the music swelled to its multiple peaks, it became apparent that the Bowl was the perfect venue for such an ethereal set; the minimal luminescence punctuated by projections of hazy, falling stars paired well with their dreamy synthy goodness.
The band is comprised largely of slide guitar, keyboard, and programmed drums- but tonight, they were joined by an aptly skilled drummer. The lights remained willfully dark upon the artists as the Baltimore duet (comprised of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally) and co. completely captivated the sold out arena. It was almost as though their set was a galactic lullaby, bewitching all of the senses and lulling them into some sort of rapt stasis. “Take Care” is an obvious crowd pleaser, for very good reason. It felt like a deliciously slow sing along, in which the entire crowd tried to mimic Legrand’s pristinely all-over-the-place vocal range. As “Myth” began to take full advantage of the superior acoustics of the Bowl, I found myself subconsciously swaying to a beat I couldn’t keep. To clarify, my lack of rhythm was to no fault of Beach House– it was entirely the fault of Charles Shaw.
It isn’t very often that I see a band I’m not overly familiar with and find myself completely entranced with their set. However, Beach House undoubtedly garnered all of my attention on that quintessential fall evening. I remember being mildly jarred when Victoria Legrand made a pointed gesture for the sound guy to turn something up; her quick motion somehow broke some sort of third wall and brought their performance back to earth, if only for a moment. I was surprisingly sad to see their set come to a close.
The Hollywood Bowl gives the most appropriate downtime between sets I’ve ever experienced, undoubtedly due to its well-oiled-machine-ness. I had plenty of time to hit the girl’s room, reapply my lip stain, smoke two cigarettes, grab another drink (RIP Charles Shaw), and stumble to my seat in the dark before Fleet Foxes began. I was initially more excited for Beach House than I was for the headliner, but I was pleasantly surprised by what was to come.
Fleet Foxes originally hails from Seattle, but their folklore-esque tenor is universally charming. They’re indubitably a canonical band that has helped bring folk music out of the woods and into the mainstream. The American indie band is celebrating the recent release of their third album, Crack Up, which has seamlessly settled into the rest of their solid discography. Despite the newly released album, Fleet Foxes delivered a satisfying medley of old and new songs, satiating everyone from casual listeners to devoted fans. Their ambiance was exactly what you’d expect it to be: tastefully nominal yet effective. Their lighting was slightly more dynamic than Beach House’s but still subtle. The cadence of Robin Pecknold’s resonant vocals created pensive vacuums, effortlessly enchanting his onlookers as the rest of the band hashed out their iconic melodies. Everything worked so well together like an equation.
Fleet Foxes masterfully honed in on their artistry as storytellers, aesthetically appealing to all senses at once. The narrative aspect of their songs translated well to the vast audience; every element acting like a chapter within a book. Every word seemed to mean something. As the multifaceted hit “Blue Ridge Mountain” ebbed and flowed within the amphitheater, the astute tension was tangible. It was impossible not to find your head reeling over what possible meaning lay beyond the cryptic libretto, and possibly projecting your own story unto it. Their entire set was positively haunting and evocative.
The band’s presence lingered long after they exited the stage. Everyone stumbled dumbfoundedly and somehow still single-file to their designated stacked parking lots after they shook off the initial mysticism of what they just witnessed. As I followed suit, I reveled in a clean feeling of gratification. Beach House and Fleet Foxes positively shut the house down with their exemplary productions, setting the bar almost unfairly high for others in their genre. As I engulfed my bacon wrapped hot dog I acquired in the gridlock parking lot, I allowed the full experience to sink in and seep. There is a new form of narrative stirring, and its roots lie within masterfully executed performances such as these.