With king of shoegaze Washed Out, also known as Ernest Greene, touring heavily in support of his most recent album, Paracosm, newer fans may not know what to expect at a concert. As the Georgia-born artist’s music is so ambient, pretty and down tempo, fans of the typical rock concert may be wondering how Washed Out would connect with the audience and keep the energy up. The answer is just fine, thank you.
Washed Out comes rife with indie rock credentials. In addition to being signed to the legendary indie label Sub Pop Records, Greene’s single Feel It All Around is the theme song for IFC’s hit comedy sketch show, Portlandia. Portlandia is very music-focused as both creators Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are musicians. Armisen’s group, the 8g Band, now heads up Late Night With Seth Myers, and Brownstein is singer and lead guitar in the famed Riot Grrrl punk band Sleater-Kinney, also signed to Sub Pop. These two know their music, and Washed Out’s winning their approval is a ringing endorsement.
Though he carries the finest of indie rock pedigrees, Washed Out’s sound is far from the grunge or punk raucousness widely associated with Sub Pop. Typically identified with the “chillwave” movement which began in 2010 and fuses hip hop beat structures with 80s synths and soothing trip hop tones, Washed Out has a Master’s Degree in Library Science and originally did music in his spare time while looking for jobs. He continues to be lukewarm about his music success, but seems to be in no way slowing down. He has released three EPs, four or five double vinyl singles, and two studio albums since he began producing in 2010.
Paracosm is Washed Out’s most recent release and it is more energetic than previous ventures, wandering more into the category of dream pop or ambient house. The ubiquitous dulcet tones for which Washed Out has come to be known are still well-represented throughout, however. Many fans on the current tour are thus wondering what a live show from a one-man all-electronic chillwave musical act will look like. If his show in San Diego is anything to go by, Greene has managed to prove that chillwave can, indeed, rock.
The San Diego Washed Out concert was at the North Park Theatre, a 100-year-old venue which has now been gutted to allow for standing room only. This gives it a club or intimate concert venue atmosphere with the acoustics of an opera house. Unfortunately the sound was a little brassy for electronic music, but that was probably more of a sound tech problem than any fault of the band. Indeed, there was a band. On previous tours and festivals, Washed Out had performed by himself, but on this tour he conscripted a live band to give body to the songs and stage appeal to the show.
Greene’s performance was extremely energetic throughout, and though the audience swayed peacefully back and forth to the music, his passion for what he was playing was clear. He took over the audience and had them cheering between songs both with his highly emotive playing and he actually acted as his own hype man, cheeing on the crowd and giving recognition to the backing band. Lastly, he made sure to play as many crowd favorites as possible, such as Amor Fati, Eyes Wide Closed and the now famous Feel It All Around, though much of the audience had already listened to the new album and were cheering for the recent songs as much as the older tunes.
Despite his purported yearnings to be a Librarian, it looks like Greene as Washed Out is coming to terms with his indie stardom, and desires for those feelings to come across both in his music and his live performances. Washed Out only has a few more dates on his North American tour, including San Francisco on December 5, Athens, Georgia December 17 and he will wrap up in New York City for a New Year’s show on December 31. Fans going to these shows are in for a beautiful musical experience with the energy of a rock show. Greene’s aim to make his fans “Feel it all around” does indeed seem to be working both in his album and in his performances. Information about where to buy Paracosm and tickets for the remaining December shows are available on Washed Out’s website, listed below in “Sources.”
Review by Layla Klamt