Photos by Gevar Bonham
I first fell in love with the synth-pop sounds of Washed Out when I tuned into the first episode of Portlandia. During the opening credits, “Feel It All Around” helps introduce the viewer to scenes of the hipster, artsy city with high pitched rippling effects, intermittent measures of upbeat congo drum and zoned out, repetitive vocals. The combination produces a sense of calm yet upbeat time distortion. And as yet another summer comes to an end, chillwave is exactly the kind of music I find myself turning to for this particular seasonal change.
With every song, Washed Out had a visual story to tell. Normally, I like to watch artists as they connect with band members, the audience and their instruments. But my eyes were glued to Washed Out’s screen the entire time.
For some songs, Washed Out’s silhouettes appeared in waves of varying colors and psychedelic patterns. Then the projections switched to old movie clips with big ‘90s smiley faces pasted over the actors. Another video followed a fuzzy white and black silhouette as it made its way around a city via public transportation. The scenes shifted focus from infrared crowds walking in the streets to faces and bodies colored over in kelly green, bright yellow and hot fuchsia.
My favorite projection switched between spiraling circles of pills, sad faces, eyeballs and hands typing furiously on keyboards. As a visual learner, I thought the projections added to the live experience. They also helped me better understand the overarching themes – apathy and boredom, despite surrounding beauty – of his latest visual album Mister Mellow, which was released earlier this summer.
Towards the beginning of the show, Washed Out mentioned that he would play both old and new songs from his catalog. Having a diverse setlist helped put things into context, and showed how much Washed Out has grown and developed over time. While some believe he could have gone further with Mister Mellow, I found it spoke perfectly to the in-between time, waiting ground emotion I’ve felt as a nearly thirty-something whose college years are far enough behind, but whose future dreams and goals have not all been realized.
The crowd was quick to catch onto the first few notes of “It Feels Alright” and exclaim their excitement for “Amor Fati.” From Mister Mellow, “Hard To Say Goodbye,” “Burn Out Blues,” and “Get Lost” had everyone in a trance-like dance state. Washed Out included just enough of a break in between each song for the audience to take a deep breath. His live renditions were nearly identical to what one hears on his albums. I prefer a little more variation when I see someone live, but the visual experience made up for that this time around.
Going into the concert, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Washed Out having never seen him live. But when I left, I felt energized to see what fall brings and more appreciative of what new summer moments I could still cherish.
Photos of Washed Out and Dega at 9:30 Club