Ernest Greene was smart in fleshing his Washed Out project into a fully formed band. While most of the mystique surrounding him and his peers in the chillwave genre stemmed from the relative isolation of his early recordings, his live shows would be awfully boring if they revolved around him standing behind his laptop for an hour. Thankfully, with four other musicians including his wife in tow, the group’s set at the Mohawk was anything but boring. The full band setup breathed new life in Greene’s arrangements, and it allowed him to focus on other aspects of the group’s performance. It all went to show that the band have the potential for longevity beyond the relatively narrow confines of chillwave.
Contrary to the sort of passive and vicarious nature of the music he makes, Greene immediately interacted with the audience upon coming to the stage, urging them to move along to set opener “Hold Out”. “We know it’s a Monday night, but we want you all to treat it like a Friday night”, he said before the band went into “Echoes” off their recently released Within and Without. While the band got the most reception when it played material off of 2009’s Life of Leisure EP, including calling card “Feel It All Around”, fans were just as eager to dance along to the newer material. Throughout, Greene showed a kind of enthusiasm that the terms that describe his music, “hazy” and “laid back”, would never imply, and there were plenty of moments when he threatened to outshine the audience in terms of energy and excitement.
In a live setting, there was a kind of fullness to Washed Out’s sound that was only hinted at when Greene was recording alone. The arrangements sounded fuller and more realized, and many of the more subdued tracks off of Within and Without received a remix treatment that served them well. Songs like “You & I” and “Soft” had a lot more force to them, and even old standbys like “Belong” and “New Theory” benefitted from the advent of live musicianship. In fact, it would be a stretch to label the music that the band performed as chillwave, as the overall vibe was way more invigorating and lively than one would associate with the genre. By the time the band wrapped up the encore with “Eyes Be Closed”, there was an overwhelming sense that many people’s expectations had been exceeded.
One can only guess where Greene will take his group’s sound in the future. However, judging by their enthusiastic set at the Mohawk, Washed Out may have something truly great up their sleeves if they continue to expand upon the live band sound that was on display. Like Toro y Moi, Washed Out may have arrived at the right time in the musical zeitgeist, but it is their willingness to transcend the genre that cradled them that makes them exciting prospects as time goes on.