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The ornate ceilings and wall fixtures of The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco can make you wish you came dressed in your Sunday best even though it’s only a concert venue. All that fell away the night Chain Gang of 1974, Class Actress and Washed Out played. Two forgettable supporting bands and a transitioning (from sample based to non-sourced) headliner – Washed Out, of Perry, GA – lead by an aspiring aesthete named Ernest Greene played a sold-out show on a midsummer’s night of muted debauchery.

The Chain Gang of 1974, a substance-less band recycling and reappropriating the sounds of ’80s pop, dressed like The Breakfast Club’s John Bender and closed their eyes with lusty boredom between chord changes. I’m positive that this band is getting just as much pussy as Odd Future because of the way they dangled themselves over their merch table and smoked countless cigarettes near the Will Call line pretending not to intercept girls. They were gorgeous, in fact, though just musically uninteresting, their hair perpetually falling into their eyes, the lead singer sometimes taking the time to tuck his back just like Jordan Catalano did in “My So Called Life,” standing up against a locker feigning his anticipation for Claire Daines to turn the corner. Once their playback machine dependent, hyper-image conscious set began, it was evident that Chain Gang is comprised of what gets so many young bands signed today: sonic mimicry paired with a the mastery of nostalgia, righteous libido and an ass that looks fantastic in anything from Urban Outfitters. Chain Gang hopped around on stage grinning at one another, playing in unison with their bass-heavy playback machine without the poise of young Rapture, the daft obsessive nature of Cold Cave during the Heartworm pressing of Love Comes Close or the absolute passion of New Young Pony Club, all predecessors of Chain Gang, Class Actress as well as Washed Out and all of whom embodied the ’80s but with the unconscious arch originality that buoyed the resurgence of the dancepunk movement from the second half of the last decade. Chain Gang appeared pleased just to be making something entirely derivative, satisfied with dance beats as ends to their means.

While Class Actress set up and Chain Gang of 1974 broke down, some boys asked me if I knew the venue well enough to know whether or not they would get kicked out for smoking weed. Knowing if they lit up right then and there the tight security at Great American would close in, I diverted an answer and simply asked them why they wanted to smoke inside and they responded by explaining that they did not have fake IDs and could not drink. I shrugged and watched them disappear into packed-in heads.

Forgiving of what I had just seen and heard but hopeful for a consolation I endured, Class Actress, a sarcastically self-deprecating female-fronted electro smudge of a “band” who has arrived entirely way too late on the scene, making it difficult to stick around for Washed Out. Elizabeth Harper, the mouthpiece of Class Actress, set up her gear while nursing red wine from a goblet and then moved on to whatever yellow liquid her tumbler glass held for the her show. Her tiresome, boozy set, benchmarked by the removal of various pieces of clothing from her Maggie Gyllenhall Secretary costume dragged on with song after song of blubbery disco, infected with the transparent spittle of insecurity. Diametrically presented from the heals and blazer clad Harper, was a guy in a trucker hat and denim vest. The irony of the two’s appearance in combination with their flimsy synth-act was neither significant nor compelling enough to hold up what ever it was she was trying to do with a keyboard and a half, a guitar and lyrics about a guy who doesn’t text her back. The issue with Class Actress is that Johnny Jewel and Mike Simonetti covered and closed this act thrice over with Glass Candy, Chromatics and Farah about two years ago. Also, with the excitement of the new female-fronted spectrum of bands ranging from Grimes to Light Asylum to Florence and the Machine you’re going to need more than big hair and a microphone.

After a fart of a performance from Class Actress, Britt Govea of (((folkYEAH))) pumped beach aerobic class jams like Black Box’s “Ride on Time,” Robin S’s “Show Me Love,” Snap!’s “Rhythm is a Dancer” and Corona’s “Rhythm of the Night.” This string of songs was the sonic equivalent of the third Red Bull vodka that no one needs. No one.

The cover of the Washed Out sophomore release Within and Without has been something of a topic of praise, wonder and controversy for the past couple of weeks on music blogs and in record shops. Ernest Greene walked on to the stage with an oversized black laptop gig-pack and flipped opened up his shiny Mac Book Pro, the J Crew porno as album art featured as his desktop background image. He loaded Logic, a widening smile on his boyish face grew in response to the high-pitched screams and hands reaching for him over the monitors. I was pleased to watch him take it upon himself to set up his own gear along side his backing band members. It softened the scene transpiring on the side of the stage near the artists’ exit door. About 10 girls in black leather jackets with miniature drawstring backpacks, batted their eyes beneath bangs of precision chatting and swirling their drink straws with absent eyes. Okay, maybe there were on five or six of them but the tireless bass throbbing overhead at a constant in excessive preparation of Washed Out that hadn’t let up since 8pm was mirage inducing at 10 past 11.

Greene, in a Freaks shirt, comfy vintage Nikes and non-tight jeans sucked on a Miller High Life and exchanged words with the sound engineer brandishing a Wavves shirt before the lights went down once more for act three. The kick of a sparkling purple Ludwig bass drum signaled a call to all to man the Prophet ’08, two lead Nord synthesizers and a sleek Fender bass. Greene’s wife Blair Sexton primed the mighty Prophet, her hair in her face, dividing it into two sides at all times. Greene, last to reappear, skipped on to the stage as the percussive lead off began to swell, waving an iPad in the air while jumping up and down and getting behind a Nord. The bass guitar grew loudly, with blood, not plasma, dissimilarly from the rhythmic flavor of Life of Leisure’s synthetic, cut up staccatoed thumps. This was to be the funkadelic representation of Washed Out, not a laptop show necessarily although there was one up there, this was not a recreation of the small southern town bedroom project of MySpace fame from 2009 and ’10. My ears, receiving sound frequencies between the house speakers and the stage monitors could not decipher what the instrument-represented samples were for the first couple of minutes. Stepping back into the eyes-closed, slow swaying crowd, Greene announced over the backing beat that the song was new and was, “Not even on the record!” His round face shown under the soft purple, blue and pink lighting was happy, proud even. He poured himself into the microphone delivering a vocal hook with nerd passion, sweat beginning to wet his face and his dorky but not over friendly disposition showing through his remarks, “How are you San Francisco?” ” I love you,” brought cheers.

Before sitting down to play keys for his first hit, “Belong” Greene referred to his iPad, punching the tablet and looking it up and down. Played slightly faster with humanistic speed brought on by live performance adrenaline squirts, “Belong” prepared knowing fans for a floorboard rumbling version of “New Theory.” The lazy melody articulated by the Nord keyboard gave dramatic strength to an extra triumphant break-down. Appreciating that the effort was made by Washed Out to physically represent the sounds on their recordings, it was during “New Theory” that I felt the live instruments had an inflationary effect on the bliss factor. Disrupted by the synesthesia induced by the live version of Washed Out and Washed Out experienced in bedrooms and the common spaces of apartments, dorm rooms and cars, I started to disassociate. “Echoes” off of Within and Without slipped into “Feel It All Around,” the dreamy misting intoxication lost somewhere in my mind as a memory, not a manifestation of Greene and company’s rendition. One of Washed Out’s friends leaped onto the stage to play the saxophone for “Feel It All Around,” commendable considering Cut Copy a former tour mate, a bigger band with an even bigger budget who usually does not arrange for the live sax to be played for their “Hearts on Fire” jam. The winning attention of the saxophone though made me more aware of the young strangers around me. Knees bending into the notes, the sax man boogied into the refrain and I checked out.

Washed Out closed with “You’ll See” and then came back for the ending start approach playing “Eyes Be Closed,” the Within and Without opener as the encore. Surprised by my own disappointment and confused thinking that I would always appreciate a live band over a software party, I left hollow and exhausted by the potency of youth, hoping the long walk home would fill my emptiness with thoughts unrelated to the show.

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