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28 year-old Ernest Greene never imagined the level of fame that would shortly follow his home-made mixtapes. Washed Out, Greene’s project, is a chillwave synthpop sound that quickly spread by word of mouth. The young guy from Perry, Georgia went from mixing together sounds in his bedroom in 2009 to rocking a sold-out crowd in Boston’s Paradise Rock Club less than three years later.
Since dream pop openers Memoryhouse had their equipment recently stolen and could not perform, local musician André Obin filled in for them with his heavy synth-led electronic music. Focusing on big bass drum beats and layered notes, Obin won over the crowd right from his opening track. His steady progression of looping sounds, although much more club-like, served well to amp the crowd up for Washed Out.
Greene took the stage shortly after backed up by a bassist, female singer and keyboard player, and drummer. He started with “Echoes” off of his debut album Within and Without released in 2011. The airy track filled up the Paradise with what would be a heavy atmosphere too tempting not to bob your head to. Greene’s voice sounds a little more happy live than in his recordings while still carrying the distant longing he is recognized for. Even during “Get Up,” a more poppy track that brings out the drums, his voice remains the guiding light while still allowing the focus of Washed Out’s sound to be the sum of every part.
Unlike other electronic acts, Washed Out turns each song to have a slightly different flavor than the ones before it. “Far Away” featured jazzy drums so precise it could have been created by a computer and “Before” used talking snippits and short electronic chimes to sound like a hip-hop remix with soft accordion. Each member kept their instrument’s core sound solid without trying to take the lead. The effect was a pleasing shower of sound on the audience who swayed in place and nosily cheered when the tracks came to an end.
Greene continued to ask the crowd how they were throughout the night and asked them to sing along to “New Theory” is they knew the words. The result was a joyous collaboration between Washed Out and the audience, both of which clapped along to the song and danced in place. The band members had been relatively straight-faced and calm but broke into smiles as the whole venue was encased in a bubble of dream pop synth and open-cymbal ringing.
Throughout the night, Washed Out used keys and synth to have everyone dancing in whichever way they pleased. At times the a single bass note would punch through the crowd and slice through everybody with a trance introduction, vibrating in their torso until the drums came crashing in and split the bass notes up into a dance song instead. Songs like “You’ll See It,” “Soft,” and “You And I” each avoid becoming trance music that makes people stop moving. Whether their head was bobbing or their hands were swirling in front of their face, the audience didn’t stop dancing.
“Feel It All Around,” used as the opening track on the TV show Portlandia, was slowed down for a new take on their popular song. Fans cheered in excitement regardless of its new sound. Washed Out then closed their set with “Amor Fati”. Fans threw their hands in the air and sang along. Soon everyone’s smiles made way for a party as the crowd jumped up and down during the chorus, happy just to be there.
With an encore of “Hold Out” and “Eyes Be Closed,” Washed Out brought a bit of funk into their sound with heavy bass, gentle tambourine, and crashing drums. Entirely unprovoked, the crowd began clapping to the beat in a blissful and encouraging way, hands held high above their heads, to show Greene their appreciation. Each chorus in the two songs was a celebration of the evening and of the audience as a single blob. Ernest Greene modestly thanked the crowd over and over, before telling them this was one of the best nights on the tour. I doubt anyone there would disagree.
By Nina Corcoran