Washed Out refreshes sold-out Black Cat crowd with chillwave performance

Published in the April 24, 2012 issue of American University’s The Eagle. Found on The Eagle’s website here.

Aspiring librarian-turned-chillwave musician Ernest Greene took the sold-out Black Cat crowd on a loud, dreamy ride on April 18.

Paired with Canadian dream-pop duo and Sub Pop labelmates Memoryhouse as openers, Washed Out was able to transcend the chillwave performance stereotype of a dude and laptop on stage. Backed by Memoryhouse’s guitarist, a drummer with a fantastic porno-mustache, and his wife Blair sharing synth duties, Greene’s good looks and hip-hop-meets-ambient-inspired grooves left fans at Black Cat feeling woozy and warm by the end of the 12-song show.

A drawn-out intro to “Echoes” kicked off Greene’s set, comprised of songs from his 2010 EP “Life of Leisure” and 2011 debut LP “Within and Without.”

Whoever was working sound at the Black Cat that night disappointingly had the vocals set too low for the first few songs. Not that it made much of a difference; Washed Out’s vocals are meant to be more of an added hazy layer of melody than distinguishable words. The sound problems were only a major bummer on “Before,” which ultimately took away from the song’s characteristic cut-up vocal track.

The summery track “Soft” had the fairly lackluster crowd swaying at the set’s midway point, kicking up the vibes for the rest of the night. Greene gave songs off the “Life of Leisure” EP a facelift, most notably on the “Portlandia” theme “Feel It All Around,” opting to not sing the melody and giving the chillwave anthem an even more laid-back feel, while still keeping its groove factor. Greene predictably closed the set with “Amor Fati,” a track that was obviously (and successfully) crafted to be the “Within and Without” single.

The two-song encore was a complete tease. Greene retooled “Hold Out” to be even more danceable and ended the night with spacey album-opener “Eyes Be Closed,” filling up the room with its smooth sound as the speakers were surely turned up to near-top volume.

While lacking the smooth production value of the recording that suits chillwave’s brand of electronic music, few things beat hearing Washed Out live on pumping speakers as the synths swelled to every inch of the Black Cat.

mcetin@theeagleonline.com

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