Posted by: Necci – May 02, 2012
When Washed Out hit the stage, all was pitch black, their silhouettes the only thing visible until the music began. I was pleased to see that a full four-piece band was taking the stage instead of simply Ernest Greene, the mastermind behind the band. None of The National’s lighting was used. Instead, the setup consisted of 5 vertical panels of simple lights, which gave the room a cosmic feel and the stage the image of a space ship. The orb of light emanating in front of me immediately differentiated the experience from any other I’ve had at the National. The show opened with monochrome lights, complementing the simple drop of the bass drum announcing that the opener was “Echoes.” As the tempo sped up, the crowd was immediately drawn in. At about 3/4 capacity, the venue was full, but not crowded. Once the music began, the room immediately felt intimate, perhaps a combination of both the turnout and the essence of Washed Out’s music. This yielded an undeniable feeling in the room that we, the attendees, were about to undergo a transcendent experience.
Dreamy yet dancy, the beginning of the show was comprised of songs with ambient intros, which melted seamlessly with the pulsing beat and the washing synth as they worked continually together to push and pull the crowd along like a tide. The synth seemed to wash over the crowd (pun intended), bathing us in electronic bliss. The reverb on the drums complemented the ethereal nature of Washed Out’s music.
The atmosphere was different from a typical electronic show--glow sticks were conspicuously scarce. The audience seemed relaxed yet engaged by the show, bumping along to the house roots of the music. Think slow techno that your Mom might actually dig. I felt somnambulant, in the best sense of the word. The band delivered vocals that sounded more raw and naturally less produced than the recorded material. I was pleasantly surprised at how the music sounded a lot like Washed Out’s albums. The sensual appeal of Within and Without came through strongly. The stage was enveloped by a misty haze that complemented the rocking ebb and flow of slower tunes and added clubby mystique to more upbeat numbers. Coupled with the dreamy delivery, the show made music that could inspire dancing end up truly encompassing the term “chillwave”--a term I hate to use, but that is frequently utilized to classify the genre Washed Out occupy.
“Come on guys,” Ernest prodded the crowd as the band struck up “Amor Fati" to close the pre-encore part of the show. Live, this tune was reminiscent of Coldplay's live sound in its emotional yet crisp beats and melodies. The most interesting addition to this act was the live drum kit, which gave crisper sound than one is used to hearing accompany electronic music. People were enthused throughout the show and, at Ernest’s urging, began clapping along. “Amor Fati” felt like Washed Out’s version of a “hit.” The live rendition was undeniably heartfelt, as was all of the material from Within and Without. (Let’s be real, teenage girls would swoon at the lyrics.)
The short set resulted in a warm entreaty from the crowd for an encore, which came thumping in with heavy bass beats dropping, giving the show an increasingly clubbed-out vibe. It was a loud show, but unfortunately at this point it became apparent that the sound guy was not hearing what we were--from the audience, it didn’t sound very good, but this was not the fault of the band. Sound problems aside, people had been and continued to dance, creating what felt like a “comfortable” rave environment--like Pretty Lights, but for an older, more refined crowd. I cannot help but note the awkward grinding that was a result of the tempo and bass.
In sum, the show demonstrated that Ernest Greene has created dance music that is also warm and welcoming. I’d love to see this act again live, but hopefully when Washed Out has a larger repertoire. Murmurs abounded about the shortness of the show, and I left thinking that, despite how much fun I had, it had all ended too soon.
By Kristina Headrick