Washed Out at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA 8/16/17 Credit: Emilio Arias
Washed Out//Fox Theater//Oakland//8-16-17 By Emilio Arias
The first time I (let’s be honest...collectively we) experienced the wonderfully weird Fred Armisen/Carrie Brownstein show Portlandia, was a moment I’ll never forget. I couldn’t tell you what happened in the episode, but that instant the intro to the seminal Feel it All Around crashed into me with its wonderfully aquatic synth, I was hooked on Washed Out's dreamy, hazy sound.
On a Wednesday evening at Oakland’s Fox Theater (my second favorite Bay Area venue) last week, I found myself jumping and grooving around to an artist that I associated more with putting me to sleep than making me dance. It took me several moments before it occurred to me just how stark the change in tone had become from the previous time the Georgia (weird right?) based synth-rockers were in the Bay Area. Even the older tracks were being cranked up to whip their mid-week audience into a sweaty mess. Banging away on his drum pads with an intensity I associate with much “harder” bands, Ernest Greene and company were energizing, innovative and beautiful all at once.
To give some context, Ernest has been producing dreamy, fuzzy, synth heavy music under the Washed Out name since 2009. What started off as a personal project in his parent’s basement has since evolved into a full fledged dream pop sound that is fantastically distinctive despite its nebulous, hazy sound.
With the release of Mister Mellow in June under a new label, Stones Throw, it’s clear that Ernest is taking the band in a new and much more visual direction.
Mostly gone is the blissful, ambient and wandering sounds of Within and Without and Paracosm. In their place are heady bass tracks and more percussion than the first two records combined. Throw in a truly art-house visual experience, complete with psychedelic drawings, patterns, and pop culture, and we’ve got ourselves a show that at first glance, appeared unrelated to its chillwave roots.
Not to say that Washed Out has lost anything or has altered their sound to be unrecognizable. It’s more that they’ve taken what makes them just so unique (vibrant synth, muffled lyrics, dreamy sounds, organic sounding mixes) and given it a tie-dye makeover with a shot of espresso instead of Xanax.
But at their core, Washed Out still delivered on the experience of intricate and layered sounds that you can feel as much as hear. I couldn’t tell you most of the songs that were played that night off the top of my head, but I could tell you exactly how I felt, with clarity, with each moment. No amount of bass and percussion will ever take away the dreamstate their sound has always made us feel.