For enigmatic Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House — comprised of singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist/keyboardist Alex Scally — the ascent to mainstream prominence since the release of 2010's Teen Dream has been an artful crawl. Though their fanbase has grown substantially (and steadily) over the past six years, they’ve maintained an aura of pure and magnetic allure, the kind of murky anonymity rarely seen in today’s era of Insta-and-Snapchat-everything fame. At a time when albums themselves are arguably seen as nearly irrelevant, Beach House released two sweeping, lush records in 2015: Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars.
Maintaining individuality is at the core of Beach House's DNA, and this notion was evident in the planning of their lengthy world tour, which features "installation shows" inside art spaces, galleries, and other alternative venues alongside standard bookings. Some bands never look back, but on Monday (March 14) night, at the first of three sold out Webster Hall shows in New York City (the same venue they’ve played since 2009), the group dazzled with a diverse setlist spanning all six of their albums to a spellbound crowd packing every edge of the 1,500-capacity Grand Ballroom.
Beginning with Depression Cherry opening track "Levitation," Legrand led the group, featuring bassist Skyler Skjelset and drummer Graham Hill, as red and white lights flickered behind them. And as Legrand's signature long dark hair hung sleepily in front of her eyes, she slurred to the crowd "Thank you for being here tonight," before they surged into 2012 Bloom cut "Other People."
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But it wasn’t until after Legrand’s spoken word intro during “PPP” that the show lifted to divine heights, as a huge blast of starlight illuminated behind them as she sang “Did you see it coming / It happened so fast / The timing was perfect / Water on glass.” Celestial-themed projections remained the evening’s stage theme, a perfect accompaniment to the cosmic tracks and Legrand's booming, otherworldly vocals.
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"Let's get this little party (pause)…I'm not gonna finish that sentence," Legrand joked before the group spun into Devotion’s 2008 cut "Gila," to cheers from the crowd. “We did something horrible. We counted it up and it’s our 32nd show in New York City!” shouted Scally midway through the hour and a half long set, showcasing just how significant the three-night sell out was for the decade-strong group.
As the show progressed, Legrand became more comfortable with the crowd, cracking joke after joke including, “You guys wanna get personal?” before a disco ball-lit run of “Somewhere Tonight” and later asking “Where my drunk ladies at?” before throwing it back with 2006’s “Master Of None.” She even brought up the Soleil Moon Frye-led ‘80s sitcom Punky Brewster: “Is Punky Brewster in the house? Don’t you remember Punky? Enough about Punky – more about us!”
As the group exited the stage after closing on Bloom opener “Myth,” the crowd howled for more. Several minutes later, Legrand returned to the stage to perform an encore of what she described as “the first song they ever wrote together,” 2006’s “Saltwater,” solo on synth. The full group then joined her on a triumphant sing-along version of Depression Cherry hit “Sparks.” As two spotlights illuminated the crowd, the smell of sage and pot lingered in the air.
Setlist: Levitation Other People PPP All Your Yeahs Silver Soul Space Song 10 Mile Stereo Somewhere Tonight Wildflower Gila Master of None Beyond Love Wishes Elegy to the Void Myth
Boston’s Somos released their great new album First Day Back recently via Hopeless, and then brought their tour with Petal and The Superweaks to NYC’s Studio at Webster Hall on Saturday (3/5). The new album is a pretty massive departure from their earlier stuff, and their best work yet. It has the band working with prettier, more atmospheric sounds and subtly technical musicianship, which was all on display at the Webster show. The fans went crazier for the old songs (which sounded less different than the new material in a live setting than on record), but maybe the new record just needs some time because those were the moments the band truly shined. The new stuff doesn’t sound “punk” in any way, like their old songs did, but the band still clearly have that mentality. They were super tight, sounded huge, and they know the importance of having a good drummer. They also know the importance of not being statues on stage or anything, and it was clear that the fist-raised crowd was loving every second of it.
Right before them was Petal, whose 2015 debut Shame is really solid and who sounded great on Saturday night. Main member Kiley Lotz has a revolving lineup, which included Tigers Jaw singer Ben Walsh this time, though she’s clearly the star of the show. A lot of moments are just her playing and guitar and singing, and they’re as memorable as the rockin’ stuff like set-closer “Sooner.” Right before them was The Superweaks, with a triple guitar attack that’s kind of a mix of Weezer and Thin Lizzy. And before that was local opener Adult Mom, who make bare-bones indie rock with hints of The Moldy Peaches.
“Infantile” is a good descriptor of Ty Segall’s current tour. This is not meant as derogatory, as much as a statement of fact. Diapers (clean diapers) rained down on the audience from both sides of the balcony at Webster Hall on Saturday night (2/28) while Ty and his band The Muggers played “Big Baby Man.” Add to that Segall wearing the rather disturbing baby mask (as seen on the cover of his new LP Emotional Mugger) for a good part of the show, more than a few songs mentioning “candy,” and you get a regressive state of a show. In the best possible way.
Ty Segall really seems to be relishing the spotlight that this tour gives him. With two or three other guitarists, depending on the song, he’s in pure frontman mode, egging on the crowd, jumping in the crowd, calling people on cellphones, and generally hamming it up. Luckily the Muggers, which include King Tuff, Mikal Cronin and Cory from Wand, are more than up to the music side and they just sounded great on Saturday, which was the first of two nights at Webster. (This was not quite the drunky party vibe of the Baby’s show.) The bulk of the set was from Emotional Mugger (which is bigger and better live than on LP) but they did throw fans some older bones, too, like “Thank God for the Sinners,” which probably got the most audience reaction of the night.
Opening was CFM, the band fronted by Ty’s sometimes bandmate Charles Moothart, and former tourmate Axis:Sova. Pictures from their sets, and more pics from Ty & the Muggers and video of the diaper-filled “Big Baby Man” performance, below.
Sunday night (2/19) Ty Segall played Webster with The Men and Dion Lunadon of A Place to Bury Strangers. We’ll have pics from that show up soon.
Webster Hall, located in Manhattan’s East Village, is today known, more or less, as a concert venue for young New Yorkers. But this concert hall has been around for over 100 years with its reputation changing with New York City history. Built in 1886 by Polish cigar maker Charles Goldstein, it operated first as a “hall for hire” to be rented out for various events, soirees, personal occasions. Since then, the venue has changed hands multiple times, gone through a few fires, and changed as often as New York City did socially and musically. For over 100 years, this venue has been hosting events for the people who would shape our city’s history. Here are the top 10 secrets of Webster Hall.
10. Elvis Presley Recorded “Hound Dog” in Webster Hall
From 1953 to 1968, RCA Records owned Webster Hall, completely refashioning it with state-of-the-art technology to make it their East Coast recording studio. “Hound Dog” was recorded and cut all in one hot afternoon in July of 1956. Despite the sweltering heat, Elvis did 31 takes of the song until he got the sound he wanted. The single was released to shops only eleven days later. At Webster Hall, RCA studios would go on to record albums of many famous musicians, such as Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennet, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong. It also recorded many broadway songs from Carol Channing’s original Hello, Dolly!, Fiddler on the Roof, and Ethel Merman’s Annie Get Your Gun.
Studio recording of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” in 1961. Image via Keith York City
9. Webster Hall Was A Venue For Many “First” Performances and Recordings
Poster for U2 performance at Webster Hall in 1980. Image via Webster Hall
Once the hall came into RCA’s possession and became more of a music venue, many famous artists had their first live performances and recording done here. On February 2, 1962, Bob Dylan was recorded for the very first time playing the harmonica on the title track of Harry Belafonte’s Midnight Special. His first album would be released a month later in March 1962. In the 1980s, Webster was under new ownership and renamed “The Ritz” where U2 would have their first ever show US on December 6, 1980. As “The Ritz,”Webster became a very popular rock venue where artists like Eric Clapton, The Pretenders, Prince, Metallica, Aerosmith, and Guns n Roses performed. It was also where Tina Turner and Sting had their respective first live solo performances.
8. The Defense Committee for Sacco and Vanzetti Used Webster Hall as a Meeting Place For Preparation
In the 1920s, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested and sentenced to death for murdering a Massachusetts paymaster and his guard and stealing more than $15,000. The crimes though not particularly interesting sparked much outrage and protest across the East Coast because of the lack of evidence for the conviction. Throughout the 1920s during the trial, the members of Sacco and Vanzetti’s Defense Committee would meet in Webster Hall to prepare for the trials. Despite their effort and the protests of hundreds of people around the world, on August 23, 1927, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed via electric chair.
7. Webster Hall Was an Important Location For Early LGBTQ Culture in America
In the 1920s, Webster Hall gave way to some politically charged, outlandish masquerade balls. The crazy costume and masquerade parties allowed people who felt they did not belong in the city’s mainstream society to openly express themselves. Particularly, the gays and lesbians of the community whose behavior might seem flamboyant in some of the city’s neighborhoods would be welcome here. Not only was Webster Hall an important location for early LGBTQ culture, but for anyone that felt they belonged outside of mainstream society in areas such as the arts, could freely express themselves through costume and participate in odd, eccentric parties.
6. During The Prohibition Era, Webster Hall Turned Into A Speakeasy
Poster for legendary Return of John Barleycorn party New Years Eve 1933. Image via jonreev.com
The 18th Amendment on January 17, 1920 mandated a nationwide Prohibition on alcohol bringing the United States into what would be known as the Roaring Twenties. Across the country speakeasies opened up to let people enjoy alcohol illegally. Webster Hall was one of those places which the police turned a blind eye, allowing patrons enjoy alcohol that never seemed to run dry in the hall. It is rumored that infamous mobster Al Capone owned the hall during the 1920s. This past January, Webster Hall hosted its 4th Annual Beer and Whiskey Festival called East Ville de Folies themed after one of its largest parties “The Return of John Barleycorn” held after the repeal of the 18th Amendment.
In the years 1911, 1930, 1938, and 1949, Webster Hall was damaged by fires. The one in 1938 was so bad it killed two people. Though most of the hall is still original, it did lose its original mansard roof to the fire in 1949. That particular fire was caused by a lit cigarette and burned for two days straight. After the last fire, the purpose of Webster Hall needed to be reassessed. And so, it became RCA Records Studio.
The parties during the 1900s got so wild that the hall got this nickname removing any kind of image of respectability original owner Goldstein had in mind. According to a Bowery Boys podcast, the parties were so lavish, full of dancing, and crazy behavior that the wealthier populations living uptown started to come down to enjoy themselves. It was the place where some of New York City’s first drag parties happened, and where many artists, small-time and famous would come and party. Apparently, Marcel Duchamp once swung in the hall’s chandelier. Even through all the debauchery, Webster Hall was never permanently closed but the police came plenty of times to temporarily close it after some particularly rowdy parties.
3. Webster Hall Was Originally Meant To Be A Place For More Respectable Gatherings
Original owner and commissioner of the building, Charles Goldstein, leased the land from Rutherford Stuyvesant to create a hall that would be a gathering place for the immigrants and blue-collar workers of the East Village. The hall was built for more respectable gatherings like formal occasions and personal celebrations, a place for the community to have a place to meet and hold events.
But as the history of Webster Hall has showed us, the original intention of the building was basically forgotten since it’s known mostly for its lascivious past. In fact, there used to be a school next to Webster Hall. But before it could even be built, the school complained to the city already sensing the indulgent reputation and trouble it would bring. But Goldstein won the case, Webster got built, and the school soon moved somewhere else.
2. Webster Hall Was The Location Of Many Strikes and Rallies
Greek Americans rallying outside Webster in 1912 towards the end of the Balkan War. Image via Webster Hall
Webster Hall has been the place of many rallies and strikes in the late 19th and 20th centuries. In April 1888, one year after the hall’s construction, Samuel Gompers led a group of striking brewery workers in front of the hall. Emma Goldman, the “High Priestess of Anarchy,” threw a fundraiser in November 1906 for her journal Mother Earth, a ground-breaking, controversial collection of anarchist and radical writings on current events. But in the true style of Webster Hall, the police came and crashed the fundraiser. Margaret Sanger, before she was the mother of the birth control movement, in 1912 led a protest where she filled Webster Hall with 119 starving children of Massachusetts Mill Workers to call attention to their parents’ horrible working conditions.
The hall was also the founding site for the Socialist Labor Party and Gompers’ Progressive Labor Party. Once the building was bought by RCA Records, although it wasn’t a public performance space anymore, RCA did rent it out on multiple occasions when recording wasn’t in session. The notable example is in 1964 when Robert F. Kennedy made an appearance at a campaign rally for his bid for the New York Senate seat.
1. In 2008, Webster Hall Was Named An Official NYC Landmark
The tour includes NYC on March 25 at Webster Hall. No other artists are announced for that one yet, but tickets are on sale now. All dates are listed below.
Last year Andra released her debut album Cheers to the Fall on Warner Bros (which lost the Best R&B Album Grammy to D’Angelo). The album, which features contributions from Raphael Saadiq, Questlove, The Dap-Kings and more, pulls equally from soul, traditional R&B and vocal jazz, and Andra has a powerhouse voice that’s somewhere between Adele and Rihanna. If you’ve yet to check it out, it’s a good listen. Listen to a Spotify stream of the whole thing and a pro-shot live acoustic video of “Rise Up” below.
New York’s American Beauty bar will be hosting a free live stream of Phish’s Madison Square Garden show on New Year’s Eve, along with an after-party featuring Teddy Midnight with special guest Todd Stoops.
Those in attendance will receive a free pizza with every drink, and the bar will be offering special Phish-themed drinks. The after party will consist of Grateful Dead, Phish and Pink Floyd tunes from Teddy Midnight and RAQ keyboardist Stoops.
American Beauty will also host a Phish after-party on January 2 featuring Phish drummer Jon Fishman’s Touchpants.