Review – Washed Out at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Feb. 1, 2014
– by Ria Nevada
Washed Out appeared on the electro-indie periphery around five years ago when the man behind the machine, Ernest Greene, started to release enveloping, synth-based compositions on his humble Myspace page.
At the time, Greene was living in Atlanta after completing his degree in Library Sciences. Eventually, he emerged from the stacks and put out his breakout EP Life of Leisure through Sub Pop. The record contained the 2009 summer anthem “Feel it All Around”, the iconic track that Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen handpicked as the theme song for IFC’s hugely popular sketch comedy show, Portlandia.
Four years later, the man behind Washed Out has expanded his inimitable, ethereal sound on his latest album Paracosm. Saturday night’s performance at the Commodore Ballroom was his second time showcasing the record in Vancouver since its August 2013 debut. This time around, pop-rock duo (and newly-engaged couple) Kisses kicked off the show with their shimmering chillwave set – the perfect introduction to the cosmic-tropical atmosphere of the night.
Greene started his performance with Paracosm’s opening track “It All Feels Right”, one of the first songs he penned for the album in his new recording haven in Athens, GA. It set the tone for the expansive, escapist vibe of the night. Greene was blanketed in magenta and indigo spotlights – all you could see was the silhouette of him and his guitar, bouncing along to the glowing melody of his dream-pop masterpiece. Fairy lights lined the stage’s backdrop, adding an extra touch of whimsy and romanticism to the venue. Within the show’s first two minutes, you could see the euphoric, glazed over look on the younger crowd’s faces – that simulated string section and trip-hop beats had them hooked.
The dancing picked up with “Belong”, evoking New Wave nostalgia with a slick, reggae beat almost reminiscent of The Police. Greene and his touring band, which includes his wife Blair on the keyboard, moved into more of the feel-good electro numbers from their first full album Within and Without. They were all in top form, with their front man radiating kindness and charisma. Crooning lyrics like “Float up/Forget about the pain/Leave it all and start again” from “Weightless”, Greene made it impossible to refute, let alone resist, the singer’s idealism and hopefulness.
One of the highlights of the evening was the slowed-down, airier version of “Feel it All Around”. The household theme song was revamped and refreshed with added sultry electric guitar riffs and a stronger R ‘N” B undercurrent. It was another standout visit from the band, and I’m sure no one will be complaining if they decide to drop by again in the next couple of months – we could all use more of Washed Out’s optimism.