There is no doubt that the electronic genre is quickly infiltrating the music industry. With artists both well-known and obscure jumping on the bandwagon and dropping synths left and right, it is all too easy to cast this style off as a mere trend rather than a long-time influence. Once the delightfully addicting sounds of Washed Out fill your ears, however, you’re bound to be whistling a different tune. Churning out ambient music with a delivery that was anything but subdued, Washed Out’s performance at the Great American Music Hall last Saturday night made clever use of the synthesizer and showed us that innovation can still be found in a world of trend-followers.
Washed Out is a one-man, homemade project from Atlanta-native Ernest Greene. You won’t find Greene in any studio. No, this artist prefers to create his stunning pieces from the comforts of home. Greene quickly made a name for himself with back in 2009, after the self-release of his first EP Life of Leisure. For some reason, “Feel It All Around” has become that song — you know, the one track from a band that everyone seems to know. And it’s not hard to see why, as its fuzzy blend of groovy beats and icy melodies help to propel the so-called “chillwave” movement. But the rest of Life of Leisure is much more energetic. Beat-focused with a subtle hint of hip-hop, tracks like the rhythmic “Get Up” and the joyous “New Theory” solidifies the hype of Washed Out.
Fast forward two years and Washed Out now has its feet solidly planted on music-loving ground. With a recently launched, full-length debut and a nationwide tour well underway, Greene no longer has to hide his music in his bedroom; his tracks sound best when amplified in a grandiose setting, say, a concert venue as ornate as the GAMH, for example. There were many things that fans learned that night — one being that Greene actually has quite a set of lungs as he belted out crowd-pleasers. And who knew that Washed Out’s backup band made all the difference in their live renditions?
Sure, Washed Out may be labeled as chillwave and admittedly, the relaxing synth lines on their latest release Within and Without are a bit too soothing. But never judge a band’s potential live performance by their studio work. Ernest Greene and co. transformed the mellow vibes of Washed Out into a captivating array of thundering beats and dazzling, almost pop-like hooks. Greene himself fueled the fire, as he demonstrated flawless virtuosity on a surprising array of vessels from the synthesizer to flaunting his vocals on the mic. Together, these factors translated to a live showcase that aggrandized the Washed Out experience.
The only disappointment of the night was the absurdly short set list. With two EPs and a full-length already tackled, Washed Out certainly aren’t lacking in material. But their repertoire kept it short and sweet, bidding adieu to their adoring fans within an hour of taking the stage. Even though put-off concertgoers can always slip on headphones and enjoy the gauzy, retro blends, live Washed Out definitely trumps studio Washed Out.
Cynthia Kang is the arts editor.