Washed Out @ Echoplex, July 8, 2011
Ernest Greene brought his Washed Out project to a sold out Echoplex this past Friday. Unless everyone here are huge fans of Portlandia (his “Feel It All Around” is the show’s title theme) it’s a fairly impressive turnout for this early career stage, with only a handful of e.p.s and cassettes over the last couple years to his name. His debut full-length LP, Within and Without, is out tomorrow on Subpop.
It’s hard to peg down his sound to a single point of reference, so we’re stuck with dumb handles like “chillwave” (which he admits in interviews is hated). It’s synthy, mid-tempo danceable electronica with a early 80’s pop backbone. A couple of touchstones that float in and out for me are 10CC, Talk Talk, Ulrich Schnauss, maybe even a bit of Spandau Ballet or Thompson Twins. With his boyish looks, the phrase “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties” comes to mind. (I think he’s just under 30 years-old.)
He literally bounces onto the stage, bare arms up, mop hair flying, hopping to the beat. The girls and gays are eating him up right of the gate. He confides it’s only his second time ever in L.A. Aw, shucks. He constantly checks on the hot crowd between songs, “How you guys doing?” It’s hard not to pull for a polite Southern gent.
Taking his project from a one-man bedroom production to a 5-piece live act, complete with a ridiculously over the top saxophone solo spot, the excitement of the newness of just playing in front of people is visible in Ernest. With electric bass and dual live and sampled drums at the core, the tunes lose a bit of the detail and preciousness of the recordings version and become louder and looser specimens. The set is just under an hour and focuses on the known tunes. They can’t really maintain a continuous danceable groove with all the starts and stops between tracks, not that the overly packed area in front of the stage allows anything more than bouncing up and down in place.
The trick will be for Washed Out to pull off genuine expression and sincere emotion while playing music that can easily veer into pastiche or even irony. So far he’s maintained this balance fairly well on record. As he plays out more, I think he will eventually want to lose the sax man, lest things get away from him and turn the show into a Tim and Eric or Yacht Rock episode. The songs are strong enough to do without the extra cheese.
Some photos from the show can be seen over at onethirtybpm.com.